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Advocate Health Group medical center proposal is taking shape

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Advocate Health & Hospitals Corp.’s plans for a medical building on the former Beatty Lumber property at 9537 S. 52nd Ave. is scheduled for consideration by the Oak Lawn Village Board at its next meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

The proposal for a two-story, 58,400 square-foot building to include doctors’ offices, a lab, pharmacy and an outpatient clinic already received approval from the Planning and Development Commission. The Architectural Review Board approved the site elevation plans last Thursday, subject to some changes requested by nearby residents at an informal community meeting that Mayor Sandra Bury hosted on July 26.

If it receives village board approval, Advocate hopes to open the facility in spring 2018.

Village officials said the new medical center is expected to create at least 105 new permanent jobs.

“And these will be completely new jobs, not jobs moved from somewhere else,” noted Bury.

About two dozen residents joined Bury and Village Administrator Larry Deetjen at the community meeting to discuss their traffic and privacy concerns about the proposed development located close to Patriot Station, the local Metra station.

“We want to preserve the neighborhood feel of the community and safety for our children, and enhance the flow of traffic,” said Bury.

The village is already planning to install a streetlight at 50th Avenue and 95th Street, which everyone agreed would be needed due to the increased traffic generated by the medical building.

However, the village officials said there is no guarantee that the streetlight will be up before the medical building is finished because Illinois Department of Transportation has not yet given final approval for the light, which depends on heavy traffic counts to be deemed necessary.

Shelly and Paul DeRousse, who live on 50th Avenue near 96th Street, said the heavy traffic that is expected to come is one of their main concerns.

“We have three children, and there are a lot of children in the neighborhood. They play in the alleys because they are safe now, but I am afraid that commuters will start using the alleys to avoid the traffic congestion,” said Shelly DeRousse.

Several residents of the four-story Arbor Court Condominiums, at 5100 W. 96th St., were also there, and raised some concerns about the view they will have of the new building from their nearby balconies.

John Benware, chairman of the Architectural Review Board, was there and took note of the issues. During a meeting he chaired on Thursday, one of the changes he suggested is that Advocate could make a green roof with vegetation.

“Having greenery and vegetation on the roof will give the condo residents something to look at more than white concrete,” said Benware.

Deetjen, who also lives in Arbor Court, said he agreed with residents that the traffic around the area currently can be dangerous, with so many motorists going to and from the parking garage, especially in the morning and evening.

He said that the planned closure of Narrow Street, which some motorists use now to get to 52nd Avenue, will likely cut down on a lot of the congestion.

David Gabriel and John Maiberger, both residents of 52nd Avenue, cited privacy as their main issues with the new building, which will be built very close to their yards.

“I actually think the building looks quite nice, but privacy is a major thing with me,” said Gabriel. He pointed out that he invested a lot of money to build a nice deck in his yard, where he and his family spend a lot of time.

“The building will be so close that I won’t be able to eat my dinner with my shades open,” he said.

When he suggested that a wall be built around the medical center to shield nearby homes, Deetjen said perhaps a berm, with trees might be a better alternative.

“I don’t mind, if you want to put 10-foot trees around it, that would be fine with me,” said Gabriel.

Benware said that in response to that discussion he asked the developers to limit the number of windows on the rear section of the new building closest to the residents. He also said the board also stressed the need for an elevated berm.

“(The developers) didn’t have a complete landscaping plan so they will have to come back with that. But we were happy with the elevation plans, aside from a few minor changes,” said Benware.

Trustee Bob Streit (3rd), whose district includes the new development, said after the community meeting that the project would be voted on Aug. 9, as long as al the concerns were addressed and too many changes weren’t needed.

“I think we can work the differences out. It looks like things are moving ahead,” said the trustee.

“We don’t want to slow them down, We want to move forward,” said Bury.

Most of the residents at the community meeting agreed to form a neighborhood committee to continue working on solving the traffic concerns as the project moves forward.