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Neighbors Question New St. Joseph Hospital Building Plans

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(Credit: AP)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Protests over a plan for a Wal-Mart store dominated a community meeting in the East Lakeview neighborhood Monday night, but another major project involving an expansion for St. Joseph Hospital was also on the agenda.

The plan calls for a new medical building at Sheridan Road and Surf Street directly to the west of the main hospital, in a space now occupied by a surface parking lot.

The nine-story complex would consist of three floors for medical offices, two floors for hospital space, three floors of garage parking, and cancer care, outpatient surgery and diagnostic imaging on the ground floor, developers said at the Monday night meeting of the South East Lake View Neighbors Association.

The building would also feature a green roof, and a poured concrete exterior that would be designed to resemble the limestone walls of the main St. Joseph Hospital, at 2900 N. Lake Shore Dr. West, developers said.

But while many neighbors have welcomed the addition of a new medical facility when several hospitals nearby have closed – Lincoln Park, Augustana and Columbus hospitals among them – some questioned the effect the new building would have on the neighborhood.

In particular, residents of the condo towers at 330 and 360 W. Diversey Pkwy. took issue with what they said would be increased traffic and obstructed views.

“Our building is faced with 60-foot blank wall of a parking garage. That’s pretty gruesome isn’t it,” one resident said. “A blank wall, made out of concrete, next to the Mies Van Der Rohe buildings?”

Other neighbors expressed concerns about more traffic on surrounding streets, including Sheridan Road, Diversey Parkway and the narrow, one-way Surf Street. The developers for the project said as a partial solution, they hoped to submit a proposal to have Surf Street be made two-way from Sheridan Road east to Commonwealth Avenue, whereas it is now one way going east.

But this in turn posed another point of contention. The project, and the changes in traffic flow, would eliminate the free parking spaces along Surf Street and Commonwealth Avenue, developers said. In exchange, the hospital would offer community parking in its existing parking facility, every evening and all weekend, but for a “minimal price.” One neighbor complained about the idea of replacing free parking with paid parking.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) explained at the Monday night meeting that the plans for the development date back years. But they were subjected to a lawsuit by condo owners in the 330 and 360 W. Diversey towers, who noted that the underlying zoning for the land was residential and had originally been reserved for two more condo towers that were never built.

The case went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court, which declined to hear it, and a state Appellate Panel ruled in favor of St. Joseph and the development plans, Tunney said.

But while the plans have clearance to go ahead, the latest revision still must be submitted to the Chicago Plan Commission for review.

Adam Harrington, cbschicago.com

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