A suburban hospital creating a medical and commercial district

Northwestern Medicine is developing and opening multiple properties around its hospital in the small suburb of Winfield, Illinois:

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The once-blighted corner now boasts a $38.8 million medical office building designed to anchor the redevelopment of Winfield’s Town Center…

The health system also has built a parking garage and amenities in Riverwalk Park since forming an agreement with the village to inject new life into Winfield’s small-town downtown. Northwestern has set aside commercial and restaurant space on the ground floor of both the parking deck and the medical office building…

Winfield Station, a five-story apartment complex, is almost fully leased, Sorgatz said.

The site that once housed John’s Tavern is available for development directly west of the medical office building. The restaurant owner closed the business in 2017 after deciding to retire. Northwestern purchased the property.

The hospital and the town have not always seen eye to eye.

This story highlights the potential for a hospital to drive redevelopment. The hospital has money, nearby property is available. The new projects can theoretically benefit everyone: the hospital needs space, the village has property that would benefit from new buildings, the municipality can get more tax revenues, community members could hold jobs.

Bigger question: should hospitals drive development and redevelopment? There is a lot of money in health care, they provide employment, and they are often a long-term presence. Numerous communities in the United States have long-standing facilities that drive activity and local status. How many communities, cities, suburbs, or more small towns can happily connect in public-private partnerships involving hospitals?

Suburban opposition to drug treatment centers

The case of opposition to a proposed drug treatment center in Itasca, Illinois sounds similar to opposition last year to a center in Wheaton. On the Itasca proposal:

But opponents said the project would hurt Itasca’s economy. The hotel currently generates around $250,000 in annual tax revenue that would be lost.

Village officials also are trying to determine how the proposal would affect police, fire and emergency medical services.

While they agree DuPage needs treatment options, the residents said they would prefer the facility be more centrally located in the county.

“When direct questions were asked regarding the impact on Itasca, they were all pushed back toward the needs of DuPage,” the residents’ statement reads.

“They (Haymarket) found a facility that fit their needs in Itasca, but we believe overlooked the impact of putting it in such a small town with limited resources.”

Residents say they understand the need for the facility but do not want it in their town. The concerns are similar to those that any suburban residents might lodge against a new development: a loss of tax revenue and concerns about the size of the facility (which could be related to traffic, noise, use of municipal services).

Residents say such a facility should be more in the center of the populous county…like in Wheaton? The problem facing less desirable but necessary land uses is this: what might be good for a region on the whole is often undesirable for individual communities who suggest it should be located elsewhere. Since zoning and development decisions are left to municipalities, whole regions could suffer.

This does not just affect facilities that might be less desirable. In Wheaton, the conversation about a drug treatment center included the people who would be treated as well as crime rates around the facility. But, imagine the case of a hospital or medical clinic. People need medical care and these do not usually have negative connotations. Yet, any medical facility may not generate tax revenues like commercial uses. The size or design of the facility might clash with the character of the community.

There is no easy answer. In an ideal world, the process might look like this: a metropolitan planning board would consider the needs of the population and then find locations throughout the region that would best serve residents. There is just one big problem: Americans, particularly suburbanites, like local control over land use decisions. Few metropolitan regions in the United States can do this and place important infrastructure or facilities where they are needed because Americans place local control as a higher priority.

It will be fascinating to see how Haymarket will respond with this particular facility. If Itasca says no, what is the next suburb to approach? Additionally, how many people will go untreated as the wheels of zoning approval turn?

Seeing the real America at the ER Saturday at 10 PM and Walmart Sunday at 8 PM

I visited both of these locations in recent weeks and was intrigued to see the mix of people at each. I’ll make a quick case for why these locations could provide as good cross-section of America as any other location:

  1. Limited options. For the emergency room on a Saturday night, there are few other medical options available at that time. If anyone has a medical issue, they will end up here. As for Walmart on Sunday evening, there are limited brick and mortar shopping options and the work week is about to start.
  2. People need medical care and grocery/home items. Both locations have people trying to meet basic human needs. Even as online shopping may allow people to avoid other shoppers and online medical consultations are now available, there are inevitably moments where running out to a store or medical professional is necessary. It is hard to imagine either of these facilities disappearing completely (even if the number of retailers is severely reduced).
  3. Connected to #1 and #2 above, people of differences races, ethnicities, and social classes are at both locations. In many other locations, whether due to residential location, the location of jobs, ill will toward others, or access to resources, not all groups are represented. Sociologist Elijah Anderson wrote a book about such rare urban locations.

While these may not be the best locations in which to conduct research, they could offer insights into typical American life.

Winfield, major hospital reach agreement for $900k annual grant

Winfield is a small suburb with money problems; the hospital in town is expanding and has money. Solution? A sizable annual grant from the hospital to the village:

Winfield will receive a $900,000 annual grant over each of the next five years from Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital as part of an agreement finalized Monday, officials said…

“We recognize the unique economic challenges facing Winfield,” CDH President Brian Lemon said in a statement released Monday afternoon. The hospital, he said, “is committed to working with the village to ensure Winfield remains a great place to live, raise families and receive high-quality health care. Our collaboration with the village of Winfield is designed to encourage economic development while stimulating the village’s economy.”…

CDH made the new offer after Winfield trustees rejected the hospital’s first proposal to give the village an annual $500,000 grant. The board was seeking roughly $1.4 million a year from CDH to help pay for the services Winfield provides to the hospital…

Winfield trustees even voted to put an advisory question on the March 15 primary election ballot that would ask voters if the village board should begin taxing CDH’s operations. The village clerk would have submitted that ballot question to DuPage County election officials had an agreement not been finalized Monday, but officials said it’s no longer necessary.

I wonder how common such agreements are. The hospital provides jobs and status yet is quite the growing facility exempt from the local property tax rolls. Here is how the Village of Winfield described the issue in October 2015:

CDH was established approximately 50 years ago as a small hospital in Winfield’s town center. In the 1990’s, the hospital began a series of major expansions of its campus through numerous property acquisitions. The majority of the purchases were commercial properties located in the town center.
The hospital now controls nearly 60% of the property in the Village ’s town center and has expanded its footprint across both of the downtown’s major arteries – Winfield and High Lake Roads.
CDH has benefited from the expansions. It is now a nationally-ranked hospital and by far the most profitable hospital in Illinois according to tax filings compiled by Crain’s Magazine. CDH has averaged a yearly profit of $160 million over the past five years with growing reserves of approximately $2 billion in cash and investments. Meanwhile the Village has continued cutting staff and services to cope with lean budgets and leaner forecasts.

Is this solely the case of the big non-profit hospital dwarfing the small village? However, Winfield has its own issues including very rancorous infighting among local political officials and candidates (I have not seen many suburb with such regular negative interactions) and a limited tax base (as the community debates whether to expand it).

Maybe this annual grant is a decent solution to the issue: the hospital is unlikely to move and the village needs money. I imagine hospital officials appreciate the village threatening to put something on the ballots unless money is provided and the village is probably not entirely happy with the amount of money. In the end, this seems like a payoff. Do these two parties really need each other and how much is this worth annually?

First American inpatient hospital Internet addiction facility to open

Internet addiction is a growing topic of discussion and the first hospital inpatient facility to address it is set to open soon in Pennsylvania:

The voluntary, 10-day program is set to open on Sept. 9 at the Behavioral Health Services at Bradford Regional Medical Center. The program was organized by experts in the field and cognitive specialists with backgrounds in treating more familiar addictions like drug and alcohol abuse.

“[Internet addiction] is a problem in this country that can be more pervasive than alcoholism,” said Dr. Kimberly Young, the psychologist who founded the non-profit program. “The Internet is free, legal and fat free.”…

Young and other experts are quick to caution that mere dependence on modern technology does not make someone an Internet addict. The 20-year-old who divides his time between his girlfriend and “World of Warcraft” likely does not require intensive treatment. The program is designed for those whose lives are spiraling out of control because of their obsession with the Internet. These individuals have been stripped from their ability to function in daily life and have tried in the past to stop but cannot…

Last May, the American Psychiatric Association released its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5, or DSM-5, for the first time listed “Gaming Disorder” in Section III of the manual, which means it requires further research before being formally identified as a disorder.

This bears watching. This will likely be a real problem for a small subset of the population and yet critics of the Internet could continue to use it to criticize all Internet use. How exactly this is constructed as a social problem (or not) will strongly influence how this is perceived in the United States.

It would be interesting to know why exactly the first hospital facility is being set up in central Pennsylvania. Why not elsewhere?

Chicago’s Prentice Hospital building gone via an economic report

Chicago’s landmark commission pulled the plug on the distinctive former Prentice Hospital building designed by Bertrand Goldberg:

The final action came after a six-hour meeting during which some 120 speakers came to the microphone to either praise old Prentice or support Northwestern’s position. Allan Mellis, on the preservationists’ side, urged the commission not to take the unusual step of voting a building up and down in the same session…

The four-page economic impact report essentially repeated Northwestern’s argument that the Prentice site was the only viable piece of property for a new research facility.

In the 33-page report on the preliminary landmark designation, the commission staff hailed old Prentice as “a boldly sculptural building.” It called Goldberg “a Chicago architect and engineer who rejected the rigid glass-box that had become the dominant form of modern architecture.”

The vote to give Prentice preliminary landmark status was unanimous; the subsequent vote to strike it down was opposed only by Commissioner Christopher Reed.

This is an interesting “fancy bit of parliamentary footwork” in that the commission will be able to say it thought the building was unique and was worth saving but the economic report made it clear Northwestern’s new use was more important. In other words, they wanted to save the building but Northwestern’s case was more compelling. But, in the end, I don’t think anyone is too surprised by this ruling; Mayor Emanuel came out against the building earlier this week, Northwestern is a powerful entity and a new facility offers new jobs and prestige alongside improved medical care, and the building is unique but not exactly endearing.

Thinking about this more, I wonder if the style of the building itself was its main downfall. It is certainly different and comes from an architect that made a mark in Chicago. Yet, it is not as conventional as many other buildings. It features a lot of concrete for a building meant for more public use and viewing. The concrete doesn’t look so great after the wear and tear of Chicago weather. The exterior is not warm. Its shape is irregular. The windows are a different shape than normal. Americans like some kind of modernism, such as the steel and glass skyscraper which signifies business and progress, but they don’t tend to like modern houses or brutalism. Additionally, it was only constructed in 1975 so it doesn’t have a long history, and it is in a desirable area so even if Northwestern didn’t want the land, others might.

Northwestern mounts ad campaign against preserving Prentice Women’s Hospital

Driving home yesterday, I heard a curious radio ad: Northwestern University wants to build a new research facility and this involves rallying people against the Prentice Women’s Hospital.

Chicago has an opportunity to become a global leader in medical research and lead the way in finding tomorrow’s cures by allowing Northwestern University to build a new state-of-the-art research center on the site of the old Prentice Women’s Hospital. The geographical positioning of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine near world-class partners – industrial, commercial, entrepreneurial and academic – provides rare opportunities for discovery that few universities can even consider.

With the new research facility, the University would attract an additional $150 million a year of new medical research dollars, create 2,000 new full-time jobs and generate an additional $390 million a year in economic activity in Chicago. The new center would attract the world’s best medical researchers and go a long way in helping a world-class city find tomorrow’s cures…

Make your voice heard! Click to submit our form to tell the Chair of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks that you oppose the proposal to landmark old Prentice Women’s Hospital and that you support Northwestern’s new medical research center…

Beyond furthering research on cures, a new facility will create more than 2,000 jobs for scientists and technicians and bring in an extra $1.5 billion in federal medical research dollars over the next decade. Learn more about why this project is vital.

Northwestern is apparently going public in their campaign to use the Prentice Women’s Hospital site. As has been reported in the local media for months, there are a number of people interested in saving the hospital designed by Bernard Goldberg. Northwestern is fighting a monied group:

Less obvious is the primary source of funding for the preservationists: the Washington-based National Trust for Historic Preservation, which put old Prentice on its list of America’s 11 most-endangered sites in 2011 and has named it one of its “national treasures.”

Christina Morris, a senior field officer in the preservation trust’s Chicago office, declined to disclose how much the trust is spending on its campaign to save Prentice.

IRS records show that the trust held about $230 million in assets at the end of 2010. That amount still paints Northwestern as a goliath. But the trust’s participation would seem to deny preservationists the label “David.”…

The preservationists — Morris, Bonnie McDonald of Landmarks Illinois, architect Gunny Harboe and Jonathan Fine of Preservation Chicago — hired Eric Herman, managing director of issue- and corporate-advocacy firm ASGK. He’s also a Northwestern alumnus and former Chicago Sun-Times reporter. The team has worked to poke holes in a university poll conducted via telephone, which found — not surprisingly — that nearly three-quarters of those surveyed supported putting a new medical research center on the old Prentice site.

I know there is a big decision looming but I wonder about the need to take the fight public: as the poll cited above shows, how many Chicagoans really care? How many even know what the Prentice site is, notwithstanding the Bernard Goldberg retrospective hosted last year by the Art Institute?

ProCure proton therapy: you are not “close to downtown Chicago”

I’ve heard plenty of radio commercials for the ProCure proton therapy facility in Warrenville, Illinois and one thing gets me every time: the ad claims the center is “close to downtown Chicago.” A few thoughts about this:

1. The actual distance from Chicago to the facility is 30 miles. While the drive is relatively simple (Eisenhower to I-88 and then about 0.6 miles off the Winfield Road exit), this is not “close.” It probably wouldn’t even qualify as nearby. In no traffic, this drive would take at least 35-40 minutes and during the day would be longer. In my world, 10 miles or less would be close to downtown Chicago.

2. I’m not sure why the facility was built in Warrenville: the land is conveniently located near an interstate, close to Central DuPage Hospital (CDH), I assume the land was cheaper than in or near Chicago, and was able to be put up in “record time.” And there was competition: Northern Illinois University wanted to build a proton therapy facility in West Chicago and CDH filed a lawsuit against NIU that was withdrawn when a regulatory board gave the go ahead to the Warrenville facility.

3. One reason they might make this claim is because not too many people have heard of Warrenville. Going to Warrenville, a small community, doesn’t sound as good as going to somewhere “close to Chicago.”

4. Another reason they may have made this claim is that they want to win market share in the Chicago region. The ProCure facility has teamed with CDH which provides care to western DuPage County and has designs on a larger healthcare footprint (with a recent merger with Delnor Hospital) but may not be familiar to all of Chicagoland. Perhaps the claim of being close to Chicago is more about winning the PR battle against Chicago hospitals such as University of Chicago, Northwestern, Rush, and Loyola.