A shining example in Oak Lawn
SouthtownStar editorial September 18, 2012 9:38PM
Updated: October 20, 2012 6:20AM
Christ Medical Center is one of the Southland’s medical and scientific jewels.
With about 1,000 physicians and thousands of support staff, the hospital creates a giant economic footprint in Oak Lawn, and the clout of a $400 million expansion project by the village’s leading employer was bound to be immense.
But before Oak Lawn officials and citizens said “yes” to the expansion, they wanted to be heard. They wanted changes to the plan, primarily to acknowledge that adjoining neighborhoods needed protection from increased traffic from the proposed nine-story addition.
Through the summer, village officials, hospital representatives and residents discussed proposed changes. It was not always congenial (this is Oak Lawn, after all) but most certainly was useful. And more to the point, it’s the way local government is supposed to function.
We think the mayor, trustees and plan commissions deserve credit for a steadfast process that not only gave an honest hearing to concerns about the expansion, weighing the hospital’s and village’s interests, but allowed residents to have real input. Village officials did not succumb to pressure to quickly OK such a major project with obvious economic benefits.
The village board approved the plan in August, and now the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board must grant final approval, which might come as early as October.
The net result of the extended process is that Christ’s new tower will be viewed more as a friendly neighbor than a neighborhood bully. There will be more landscaping at key entrances, other aesthetic benefits and traffic safety improvements.
In return, citizens of the Southland will be afforded greater surgical, outpatient and emergency care. And more jobs.
The lead project consultant for the hospital and village conceded that the changes agreed to were a “marked improvement over what was presented in the spring.”
That’s thanks to a great example of democracy in action. When it’s open and responsible, it’s a beautiful thing.