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West Side hospitals back expansion plan

Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Chicago Sun-Times
by Mitch Dudek

The four West Side hospitals that comprise the heart of the 560-acre Illinois Medical District have signed on to a building-expansion plan.

The largest project, scheduled to break ground in the fall, will be a mixed-use facility with a hotel, restaurants, apartments, parking garages and convention meeting space, said Warren Ribley, executive director of the Illinois Medical District Commission.

“All four hospitals [University of Illinois, Rush, Jesse Brown VA and Stroger] have signed on and see the collective added value of the plan,” Ribley said.

The facility may call for as many as seven new buildings on nearly 10 acres of vacant land at Harrison and Damen. Developer proposals are due this week. A price tag has yet to be determined, but the facility will be mostly funded by private investors, Ribley said.

In the next several weeks, construction will begin on an 8,000-square-foot addition to an existing building under renovation at 2250 W. Harrison. It will be leased to a clean-energy and technology firm. And a building at 2235 W. 13th St. will be renovated to house a business that provides cadavers for medical research. Both projects, costing a total of $6 million, will be largely funded by the state’s Illinois Jobs Now program.

In addition to short-term construction work, the expansion is excpected to generate 2,500 to 4,500 new permanent medical industry jobs.

The projects are part of a road map for success that also includes hiring a private firm to increase the efficiency of clinical research trials and establishing a fiber-optic network that will support the analysis of huge amounts of clinical data by providing connectivity at speeds 10 to 100 times faster than commercial broadband.

“This strategic plan represents a tremendous opportunity for Rush University Medical Center and the Illinois Medical District,” Dr. Larry Goodman, CEO of Rush University Medical Center said in a news release. “We were thrilled to collaborate on the strategic planning process and look forward to the continued growth and economic development that emerges from the District in the coming years.”

Construction will cause no disruption in medical services and should be finished by the end of 2014 or mid-2015, Ribley said.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg, a catalyst for additional development,” said Ribley, who was appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn last year to head the commission that oversees development of the special-use zoning district.

“For the last 10 years, the IMD has been largely dormant,” he said. “I was hired to come in and really turn around the medical district so it can see its potential.”

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