The Oak Lawn Planning and Development Commission gave its approval Monday night for the Advocate Medical Group to build a medical facility at the vacant Beatty Lumber property site along 52nd Avenue in the village.
The commission approved the plan but only after residents and public officials raised some concerns about the proposed project during the three hour and 10 minute meeting. With the agreement, the plan will be on the agenda for a vote during the next Oak Lawn Village Board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9.
The medical facility would include offices for physicians, urgent care and a pharmacy. The facility would cover about three acres and will be located on the north and south side of 52nd Avenue and extend to Tulley Avenue. The medical building would extend north to 96th Street and south of the railroad tracks.
Devin McKeever, vice president for Shared and Support Operations for Advocate Medical Group, assured the large crowd that attended Monday’s meeting that the facility will provide the best of care and that specialists from Advocate Christ Medical will be on hand. AMG has viewed the location for some time after looking at the village’s 95th Street Corridor plans.
“Advocate has continued to grow and there is a need to expand,” said McKeever. “We can assure that people will have access to quality health care.”
The majority of residents and officials that attended the meeting Monday night and an informal neighborhood meeting hosted by Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury on Friday did not oppose plans for the medical facility. The major concern for residents was a possible increase in traffic. Another resident was concerned about privacy. He did not like the idea of windows facing his property that would allow people to look in.
“I have young children,” said David Gabriel.
AMG officials and Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen said that it would not be a problem. If necessary, windows could be frosted. Lighting will also be lowered so it is not that bright for the residents who live in nearby homes, AMG representatives said.
“There is a lot of moving parts to this project,” said Deetjen, when questions about parking and traffic congestion were raised. “Advocate has been great and this would be a great addition to the area.”
During the neighborhood meeting on Friday, which also drew a large crowd, a variety of proposals for the project were brought up. An idea for townhomes was suggested and that brought mixed reviews. The idea of townhomes was initiated from local Realtors and members of the business community, according to Deetjen.
“As far as the townhomes go, my point is there will be a high concentration of people coming in,” said Kevin Ford, who lives near the proposed project. “I like the idea of the project without the townhomes.”
Jennifer Loughlin, who lives along Tulley Avenue, said on Friday that she prefers no townhomes.
“I think I need and deserve a buffer,” said Loughlin. “Right now it’s empty and it’s ugly. But at least I know my neighbors.”
Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) said on Monday that after considering the townhomes proposal, he would rather see more trees and landscaping.
“Is there a demand for these townhomes? I think it is a non-sell, in my opinion,” said Streit.
Bury said on Friday that the addition of Advocate would be a great for Oak Lawn.
"Anything would be an improvement," said Bury. "The traffic flow right now is terrible there. Right now these are preliminary plans.”
The facility would employ about 105 people and would be a boost for local businesses and restaurants, according to Deetjen. The two-story Advocate facility would be over 52,000-square feet and would be built on the east side of 52nd Street. Parking would be built on the east and west sides of the street, according to preliminary plans.
While a vote may be taken on the Advocate project at the Aug. 9 village board meeting, negotiations will have to take place with the Norfolk Southern Railroad, who opposes Advocate’s plans. Beatty Lumber has not been in operation since 2011. An attorney representing Norfolk said that the railroad needs access to the area and Narrow Street, which would be closed off if the project is approved.
Deetjen said that the remaining building along 52nd Avenue is dilapidated with weeds and homeless people occasionally taking up residence in the building. Deetjen added that the railroad has done nothing to improve the site.
Bury said that she knows residents have concerns and appreciates their input.
“Advocate will be good neighbors,” she said.