UPTOWN — Weiss Memorial Hospital is putting the finishing touches on its rebuilt orthopedic center, the latest upgrade to come to the neighborhood hospital at the center of a controversial development project.
Work on Weiss’ orthopedic lab will wrap up by the end of the year, followed shortly by a renovated hospital lobby and other upgrades, CEO Irene Dumanis said. The $5 million project is part of a larger investment into Weiss’ services and technology by its parent company, Pipeline Health.
Pipeline bought Weiss, 4646 N. Marine Drive, two years ago, sparking concern among some neighbors and lawmakers over the hospital’s future. Plans to sell a hospital parking lot to make way for a 314-unit apartment building intensified those concerns among neighbors.
But upgrades made to the hospital, including the new orthopedic unit, prove the hospital is here to stay in Uptown, Dumanis said. With the orthopedic project, Pipeline has spent more than $35 million upgrading Weiss, she said.
“It’s a significant investment in the longevity of the hospital and our continued success,” Dumanis said. “We’re looking at ways to partner with the community to meet their needs.”
The orthopedic center at Weiss is being rebuilt to include 17 private rooms — previously, about 17 beds were in double rooms — with a redesigned reception area and more space for treatments like physical therapy.
The center was designed around the orthopedic department’s technology, including advanced telemetry and robotics to help with procedures like joint replacement and spinal surgery, Dr. Henry A. Finn said.
“It accommodates the modern patient,” said Finn, who was recently named one of the city’s top orthopedic surgeons by Chicago Magazine. “Things change so rapidly. Being able to design it with the new principles by which we practice medicine … is exciting.”
Weiss is also renovating an elevator bank and rebuilding the lobby of its medical offices building. Work on the projects started in the spring, building records show.
The orthopedics center should be completed by the end of the month, and the elevator and lobby upgrades will wrap up by the end of January, Dumanis said.
Those improvements are on top of a $12 million parking garage renovation, a $13 million medical records overhaul, a $5 million upgrade in operating room equipment and systems and a $1.5 million investment in telemetry technology, Dumanis said.
A future addition to the Weiss campus in Uptown has irked some neighbors, though.
The surface parking lot at Wilson Avenue and Marine Drive will be sold to Lincoln Property Company and redeveloped into a 314-unit apartment complex. The development project was approved by City Council this summer after months of intense debate and protest over the proposal.
Some neighbors and housing advocates have rallied against the project, saying its lack of affordable and family-sized units will further gentrification in Uptown. Neighbors said they worried about Pipeline Health’s future plans for Weiss after the company shut down Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park shortly after acquiring it.
Pipeline was forced to pay Melrose Park a $1.5 million settlement following the hospital closure.
Proponents say the apartment building is a better use of lakefront land than a parking lot and will relieve pressure on Uptown’s housing stock. There is room for future growth in existing buildings on the campus, and the sale of the lot will help fund future upgrades to the hospital, executives have said.
Opposition to the project has not gone away despite it being approved by the city, as housing advocates rallied in early December against the development.
As conversation about the development continues, Dumanis said she hopes the investments made at Weiss ease concerns about the hospital’s future.
“Actions speak louder than words,” she said. “The fact that these investments are being undertaken … speaks loudly about our commitment to this facility.”
The sale of the parking lot to Lincoln Property is in the works but has not been finalized, Dumanis said. Terms of the deal have not been made public.
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