UPTOWN — Uptown community members want Weiss Hospital’s prospective new owner to undo a controversial move by its former owner: selling a hospital parking lot to a luxury apartment builder.
Executives with Resilience Healthcare are seeking regulatory approval to take over Weiss Hospital. Those officials held a meet-and-greet with community members Thursday at Weiss to present their vision for improving the medical center.
But many community members and activists were more focused on plans to build a 314-unit apartment complex at the parking lot at Wilson Avenue and Marine Drive.
California-based Pipeline Health bought Weiss in 2019. In separate deals, the company sold the hospital parking lot to Lincoln Property Development to build the apartments, and it is trying to finalize the sale of the medical center to Resilience.
Despite substantial community opposition, city officials approved a rezoning of the parking lot last summer to allow for the 12-story apartment building. Lincoln Property is awaiting a building permit for the project.
Hoping there is still time to thwart the controversial project, neighbors asked Resilience CEO Manoj Prasad to buy the parking lot back from Lincoln Property or try to void the sale the land. It is unclear how much leverage Resilience might have to intervene, and company officials said blocking the sale is not within their grasp.
“You have got to understand how much bitterness there is over the destruction of affordable housing in this community,” neighbor Paul Siegel said. “Obviously community hospitals are an endangered species. … The fate of community hospitals are absolutely bound up in the fate of the community they serve. This is an endangered community.”
The surface parking lot along Wilson Avenue has been rezoned and removed from the hospital’s planned development, which precluded apartments from rising on the medical campus, city records show.
The sale of the lot has not yet been reflected in property records. But Resilience executives said the deal is done, and it was made by Pipeline and Lincoln Property before the new ownership group entered the picture.
As part of the agreement to sell Weiss, Pipeline Health has agreed to repay $12 million to Resilience. That amount includes the $8 million Pipeline received for the sale of the parking lot, said Resilience attorney Anne Murphy.
Those funds will be invested into Weiss, executives said.
Some neighbors asked Resilience to use those funds to buy back the parking lot and retain the property for medical uses. The development has faced community opposition since it was introduced in November 2020.
“We have a luxury high rise that is supposed to rise” on the parking lot, neighbor Carla Langston said at the meeting. “I’m curious how you see that serving the community, serving the hospital.”
Rathnakar Patlola, who is helping finance Resilience’s takeover of Weiss, said the firm cannot command Lincoln Property to sell the parking lot back to the hospital.
“We cannot tell people what to do with their property,” Patlola said. “We don’t have any control over the parking lot.”
Ald. James Cappleman (46th) was at the community meeting but did not make any comments. Cappleman supported the Weiss parking lot development and recently said the proposed sale of Weiss would ensure the hospital’s “continued success.”
Weiss Hospital, 4646 N. Marine Drive, has been open for 70 years. It serves a mostly low-income patient population, making it a critical health facility on the North Side.
Pipeline said it has invested more than $35 million into Weiss. That includes a $12 million parking garage renovation, a $13 million medical records upgrade and a $5 million new orthopedic center. A ribbon cutting at the center was held last week.
The sale comes as hospitals have struggled with staffing shortages and financial trouble during the coronavirus pandemic. Weiss has over 100 open positions, according to Crain’s.
Resilience has signed a letter of intent to buy Weiss and West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park for $92 million. The sale will go before state legislators this spring.
In taking over Weiss, Prasad said he is moving to Chicago, which will help him better understand the community dynamics and the hospital’s needs. He said one of his first initiatives is to improve health care outreach to people experiencing homelessness.
Prasad is a physician and health care executive with more than two decades of experience in health care turnarounds.
“This is a community hospital, and that shall remain,” Prasad said. “We are going to be here to serve the needs of the community passionately.”
What kind of community Weiss will serve is the question, neighbors said.
“If we have a community where no one can afford to live, then this can’t be a community hospital,” neighbor and organizer Marc Kaplan said.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: