U of C, Orland Park advance plans for medical center

Tribune reporter

University of Chicago Medicine and Orland Park are moving forward on plans for a new outpatient medical care center in the heart of the village's downtown.

After signing a letter of intent outlining plans to bring a 120,000-square-foot medical facility including a pharmacy and parking structure to Orland Park's Main Street Triangle in May, University of Chicago Medicine has sought approval from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board.

The review board is expected to issue a decision on the Orland Project at its Aug. 27 board meeting. If it wins approval, University of Chicago Medicine aims to break ground this fall, said Ashley Heher, assistant director of University of Chicago Medicine's news office.

When village officials announced the project in May, touting the $18.4 million the village expects to make on the development, University of Chicago Medicine's credentials as a quality healthcare provider and the possibility the announcement could jumpstart promised development in the Main Street Triangle, they said the letter of intent would let the parties begin negotiating a final agreement, likely in the form of a lease-purchase agreement.

That step is still a work in progress, said village spokesman Joe La Margo. "But we're confident this is coming along," he said.

Illinois state law requires medical facilities obtain a certificate of need from the Health Facilities and Services Review Board, which permits construction and acquisition of major medical equipment. The program — designed to prevent creation of unnecessary healthcare facilities that can contribute to rising healthcare costs — requires applicants show the project is necessary and financially sound, said review board spokeswoman Courtney Avery.

Plans filed with the review board provide some additional details on University of Chicago Medicine's plans. The site will offer specialized treatment in radiation oncology, with 80 exam rooms for other medical specialties, including orthopedics, women's health, pediatrics, cardiology and surgical consulting. They will also offer diagnostic imaging, including MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds and mammography, according to the plans.

The project's cost is estimated at nearly $67 million and would be completed in 2018, according to review board documents.

Arguing that the project fills a need in the community, University of Chicago Medicine officials told the review board that the area the site would serve is expected to need 413 additional exam rooms and 370 additional physicians by 2018 to keep up with population growth and the impact of the Affordable Care Act, according to their market research data.

Gerry O'Keefe, spokesman for Advocate Health Care, said that while Advocate Medical Group has busy outpatient sites in the Orland Park area, their data show a surplus of physicians. "Based on the information we have access to, current outpatient coverage in the Orland/Tinley area appears to be more than sufficient," he said.

University of Chicago Medicine officials declined to comment on the specifics of the project while it is under consideration, but in their application to the review board, they also noted the new site would offer a number of medical specialties, providing better care for patients with complex illnesses, and would offer a convenient location. According to the application, the south suburbs is the second most heavily represented community they currently serve at their Hyde Park site.

There will be no public hearing on the project since no requests were made before the project's deadline, Avery said. However, the board will accept public comments on the project through August 7.

In the meantime, the village is accepting bids from companies to demolish the remaining structures on the property planned as the medical center's site, the former Orland Plaza mall at the northwest corner of La Grange Road and 143rd Street. The village wants the work completed by August 30, according to bid documents, in time for a fall groundbreaking.

So far, a handful of local officials and two Orland Park physicians sent the review board letters of support for the project.

"The university's new facility would be a significant boost for our local economy and will be a vital component of our re-energized downtown," Mayor Dan McLaughlin wrote. "We enthusiastically support the project." | Twitter @laurenzumbach

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