St. Anthony Hospital updated Little Village residents on the progress of the Focal Point Community Campus project Thursday night. Credit: Focal Point

LITTLE VILLAGE — A controversial project bringing a hospital to the Southwest Side could begin the city approval process within the next several weeks, according to the local alderman and hospital leaders.

City Council approved the sale of the former Washburne Trade School in Little Village to St. Anthony Hospital in April, making way for a 32-acre Focal Point Community Campus that will feature spaces for community gathering, sports and recreation health and wellness and education and commerce.

Plans include a hospital with a level-two trauma center, vocational school, day care, public market, affordable housing, restaurants, retail, sports fields, a theater and more. 

At a community meeting Thursday, which was occasionally interrupted by protests, hospital representatives and Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) said they hope the Chicago Plan Commission will vote on the development in the next two months. The development also needs to be approved by City Council’s zoning committee and the full City Council before construction can start.

Guy Medaglia, president of St. Anthony Hospital and the Chicago Southwest Development Corporation, the company in charge of project development, thanked Rodriguez for his support throughout the project. Medaglia said the group worked for 10 years to bring the project to fruition.

“It was terrible getting the city to recognize the importance of doing something in our neighborhood,” he said. 

Response to the development has remained contentious since it was first announced. Protesters interrupted Thursday’s meeting partway through, chanting, “I don’t believe what you say because I see what you do,” before being escorted out. 

“I don’t mind people being vocal,” Medaglia said in response. “I don’t mind people even objecting to the project. But there’s a right way and a wrong way … this project is for the people. It’s for the community.”

Since the project’s announcement, some community members have cited concerns of longtime residents being displaced, similar to what community members in Pilsen have experienced as a result of ongoing gentrification. 

Others have called the $600 million development project a much needed addition to the community. One community member during Thursday’s meeting acknowledged concerns but said, “Our community does deserve a first-rate hospital.”

“There are people who have issues and questions, and don’t necessarily, potentially agree with this,” Rodriguez said. “And they think they deserve to be heard and we need to listen to that to make sure we’re accountable to everyone in our community.”

Rodriguez also said he’s committed to making sure any developments coming to Little Village are the right ones for the neighborhood. He also said he’d continue to consider resident input on what community needs should be prioritized as the project continues. 

“We’ve been very conscious and careful that what we do here in this community is for our community and for the people who live here for years,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t want an outside entity coming in here. This is an organization that’s been here for generations.”

Maurice Cox, commissioner of the city’s Department of Planning, said his department recommended several changes to the development plan. Some were scuttled, including adding streets throughout the project site. Medaglia said the proposed street locations, most of which led to dead ends, were unnecessary, a potential safety issue and would cut the size of the recreation field and other areas. 

St. Anthony Hospital is awaiting permits to begin demolition, which is expected to be completed within two months after City Council approval for the development.

Construction is still expected to begin in 2023 and be complete in 2026.

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