After months of debate, Christ Medical Center wins village approval for expansion
BY BOB RAKOW Correspondent September 14, 2012 4:16PM
Christ Medical Center
Updated: October 17, 2012 6:28AM
After months of debate, Christ Medical Center’s plans for a nine-story tower and parking garage on Kostner Avenue have received final approval from the Oak Lawn Village Board.
Trustees on Tuesday approved of the second phase of the hospital’s $600 million project, four months after the hospital first presented plans to the village’s planning and development commission.
The commission approved the proposal at its August meeting after a series of hearings throughout the summer that were often contentious as hospital representatives, village officials and residents debated the merits of the plan.
“It’s truly a marked improvement over what was presented in the spring,” said John Houseal, co-founder of Houseal Lavigne Associates, the consulting firm that worked with the hospital and village on the project.
The final plan addresses a variety of concerns voiced by residents and village officials.
For instance, 20 feet of additional landscaping will be installed along the hospital’s 93rd Street employee parking lot, and employees will be prevented from exiting east onto 93rd Street into the adjacent Crawford Gardens neighborhood.
Landscaping also will be used to screen the hospital’s proposed oxygen tank farm, and tanks will be painted to match the surrounding buildings. Finally, ComEd has agreed to bury 10 of 12 utility poles along Kostner Avenue.
The final design also includes an enhanced entryway between the parking garage and the patient tower. Trees, shrubs, flower beds and wrought-iron fences will be used to direct the pedestrian traffic between the two buildings.
Trustee Tom Duhig (4th), whose district includes the hospital, said he is pleased with the changes but said the hospital must agree to additional traffic signs or signals if needed.
“Nobody is going to know what the future traffic is going to be until it comes,” Duhig said.
Duhig has been critical of traffic studies conducted by the hospital for not including the neighborhood on the south side of 95th Street.
He added that he is disappointed that a financial impact study has not been completed. The study will give the village a clearer picture of the impact the expansion will have on village services such as public safety.
“It is really bothersome when we haven’t completed the study,” Duhig said.
The tower still needs to be approved by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, which could act on it at its October meeting. The tower would include an expanded emergency room as well as additional operating rooms.
Increasing the size of the ER is expected to reduce the number of hours the hospital is forced to divert patients to other hospitals due to a lack of beds. Last year, the ER was closed for 1,100 hours because of capacity issues.
The first phase of the hospital’s expansion, a nine-story ambulatory pavilion on the northeast corner of 95th Street and Kilbourn Avenue, is under way. A parking garage is being built across the street.
The ambulatory pavilion will house outpatient services that currently are scattered throughout the main hospital building. The move will free up space to care for more acutely ill and trauma patients.
There will be 14 operating suites in the new pavilion for outpatient procedures as well as space for the hospital’s cancer, heart and vascular and neurosciences institutes. Advocate says the hospital sees about 1,000 outpatient customers each day.