LITTLE VILLAGE — St. Anthony Hospital is poised to buy the former Washburne Trade Center site as part of a larger plan that would bring a hospital, school and retail to the Little Village industrial corridor.
Under the deal set to be introduced at next week’s City Council meeting, St. Anthony Hospital would purchase the site at the corner of 31st Street and Kedzie Avenue for $ 5 million, Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) said during a Wednesday night meeting.
As part of a redevelopment agreement, St. Anthony Hospital and the Chicago Southwest Development Corporation would also pay $3 million for environmental remediation. The hospital would need to be built within 6 years or the ownership of the site would return to the city of Chicago, Rodriguez said.
If approved by the City Council’s Housing Committee, a final vote for the land sale could go before the full council in April, Rodriguez said.
The sale would end a bidding war for the site between St. Anthony and the North Lawndale-based film studio Cinespace. But as part of the agreement, the hospital would also need to work out a deal to work with the studio for use of the site, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez threw his full support behind the St. Anthony proposal, citing responses from residents dating back to 2019. The freshman alderman said he had received 1,500 signatures from residents and 29 community leaders supporting the project.
“With this level of support, [there is] the potential to bring additional health resources, affordable housing, a park space and more. Plus the commitment to the required remediation cleanup and the opportunity to develop an empty and depilated for decades, I also submitted a letter of support for this project,” Rodriguez said.
During the two-hour long meeting, St. Anthony detailed plans for its 32-acre “Focal Point” development — which would bring a hospital, affordable housing, vocational school, day care center, public market, restaurants, retail and sports fields to the site, St. Anthony officials said.
The project was first envisioned more than 10 years ago and has evolved after community feedback, said Jim Sifuentes, senior vice president of Mission and Community Development at St. Anthony.
Over the last 10 years, officials began acquiring property south of the Washburne site to make way for the larger projects. Now with the pending redevelopment agreement with the city, St. Anthony officials plan to demolish the remaining building in spring and begin environmental testing and remediation through 2022.
St. Anthony and the Chicago Southwest Development Corporations came under scrutiny in their attempts to demolish a warehouse at 3200 S. Kedzie Ave. and evict immigrant artists living at the site. A lease dispute is at the center of the case, which is being litigated in housing court.
Rodriguez encouraged the hospital to help find those living on the site safe and adequate housing.
In describing their timeline, St. Anthony and the development team officials said they expect city approval later this year and would begin construction in 2023. They estimate the project would be completed in 2026.
St. Anthony Hospital president and CEO Guy Medaglia said the neighborhood was deserving of a new, state of the art hospital.
Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Jamie Di Paulo and the Resurrection Project’s CEO and founder Raul Raymundo also backed the project.
Some supporters expressed enthusiasm for the plan. “Families should be excited that this project is being brought to the community,” one attendee wrote in the Zoom chat.
Little Village resident Sandra Mendez called the hospital “vital” for the community. Others said the hospital would bring more jobs to local residents.
But nearly two years since the previous community meeting, some resident’s concerns around the project have remained the same.
During Wednesday night’s meeting, residents expressed fears of displacement and the impact the overall project would have on the property taxes of Little Village residents. Others wondered about the affordability of the housing at the site.
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization member Jose Acosta said he was concerned about the location of the hospital in a heavily trafficked industrial corridor, especially with an Amazon warehouse being considered across the street.
Placing a hospital, daycare and open fields in the heart of the industrial corridor would expose people to “toxic air every day,” Acosta said.
Others wondered why the city wasn’t using the land for a school.
In responding to the question, Rodriguez said neighborhood high schools were under-enrolled and have capital needs, as a result, he would “not support another high school at the site.”
Meanwhile Wednesday night, more than a dozen residents and members of the Mi Villita neighbors group gathered outside Rodriguez’s home demanding the Washburne site remain public and not be sold to a private developer.
In the rain, protesters shouted “no back room deals.”
Early in the meeting, Rodriguez said he didn’t want “any actual or perceived conflicts of interest,” and added “any donations to my campaign received by St. Anthony staff, or any [person] affiliated, will be donated toward COVID relief in my the community.”
Rodriguez and Medaglia said they would have future community meetings around the project before the proposal goes before the city’s Plan Commission this fall.
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