BRONZEVILLE — A massive Northwestern Medicine outpatient center along the Cottage Grove corridor in Bronzeville is a go.
City and hospital officials announced Thursday they are moving forward with plans for a 120,000-square-foot facility on a vacant lot in the 4800 block of South Cottage Grove.
The center will include an immediate care center, primary and speciality care from Northwestern physicians, a pharmacy, lab services, a cancer and chemotherapy center and retail space, officials said Thursday.
The plan has been in the works nearly a year. Northwestern leaders and Ald. Sophia King (4th) hosted community meetings for residents to weigh in on the plans.
The center would be a more than $100 million investment, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a press conference Thursday.
“Northwestern is making this investment without receiving one dollar in public funding to bring this project to life,” Lightfoot said.
Northwestern Medicine leaders say the facility could serve more than 50,000 patients in and around the Near South Side every year. Leaders also said the facility will create 1,000 construction jobs and 100 health care jobs. Northwestern has been working with a recruiter to hire people from the South and West sides for those jobs, officials said.
“We believe this site will have a generational impact on the health and wellness of this community,” said Dr. Kimbra Bell Balark, medical director for the Bronzeville facility. “We partnered with the community to set the foundation for this project to be grounded in the strength of the Bronzeville neighborhood past, present and future.”
Ald. Sophia King (4th), who represents the area, said the center bolsters other exciting developments on Cottage Grove, including Shops on Lofts on 47th Street, 4400 Grove, the Lillian Marcie Theater Project and the Bright Star Turn Center.
” … We are not just experiencing a renaissance, we are experiencing a community led boom, ” King said in a statement. “The robust march of development on the corridor is a great example of what happens when the public sector and the private sector work together for the common good.”
The site also is a half-mile from the Bronzeville Legacy District, a $19.2 million residential and commercial complex coming to 47th Street as part of the city’s Invest South/West program to spur major developments in underserved neighborhoods.
“This rapidly growing corridor is a direct result of us bringing the resources that Bronzeville residents have been requesting for so long,” Lightfoot said. “People now … can literally walk to get food, to get clothes, to get entertainment and now can walk to get their health care needs met.”
Bright Star Church Pastor Chris Harris has been collaborating with Northwestern Medicine for the last eight years on wellness initiatives and is a community partner on the project.
Harris said Thursday the medical center was an example of “doing the right thing, the right way, at the right time and in the right place.” He praised Northwestern leaders for their extensive community involvement in developing the proposal.
“The right way is doing things with the community, and not to nor even for the community,” Harris said. “When you don’t live the problem, the worst thing you can do is try to helicopter in with what you call so-called solutions that are absent of talking to and learning from the residents who have what we call lived experience. Northwestern did it the right way.”
Harris also said bringing the medical center to the community is especially impactful after more than two years of a pandemic disproportionately hurting the South and West sides and exacerbating conditions that negatively affect health outcomes.
“As a wife and mother, I can also relate to the importance of access to quality health care for the entire family unit; and I recognize that the lack of access of quality health care, both physical and mental health care, can destroy families in the community in which we live,” Bell Balark said.
Northwestern’s proposal must go through the Illinois Health Services and Review Board. If approved, Northwestern could break ground as soon as summer 2023 and open as soon as mid-2025, Lightfoot said.
“This new advanced outpatient care center will provide patients with access to world-class care without having to leave their community,” Dean M. Harrison, Northwestern Memorial HealthCare CEO, said in a statement.
“Equitable and convenient access to quality healthcare is necessary to creating thriving communities,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “I’m grateful to Northwestern Medicine for expanding their presence to the Bronzeville community, making an incredible difference in the lives of those residents.”
The announcement comes about a year after new owners took over the former Mercy Hospital at 2525 S. Michigan Ave., about 4 ½ miles north of the planned Northwestern facility. Now known as Insight Hospital and Medical Center, the facility reopened its emergency room earlier this year, bringing back what had been one of the busiest ER’s in the city.
Activists fought for months to keep the facility open and serving a part of the South Side that has had shaky access to medical services for decades.
UChicago’s trauma center closed in 1988. Michael Reese shut down its trauma division in 1991, in part because UChicago’s closure shifted an enormous burden of care and financial strain onto the facility. The Michael Reese site is being redevelopment in a multi-billion-dollar behemoth with apartments, retail, a vistors center, public park and other amenities.
Those shutdowns left Advocate Christ Medical Center in suburban Oak Lawn as the only Level 1 trauma center close to the South Side for nearly three decades. UChicago’s trauma center reopened in 2018 after years of fierce activism from students, advocates and community members.
Other hospitals also have brought or are planning expanded medical resources to the area. Rush University opened a free clinic inside the Wendell Phillips Academy building in May, offering physical and mental health services to students year-round. That clinic previously was run by Mercy Hospital.
Further south, UChicago Medicine is planning a $663 million cancer center on 57th Street.
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