Citing growing demand for its health services across a range of departments, Rush Oak Park Hospital is seeking village government approval to build a $27 million, 700 car parking garage on land it currently owns and uses as a surface parking lot on Wenonah Avenue.
Monday evening the Oak Park village board referred the proposal to the Plan Commission for review and public input. The commission will take up the proposal at an early November meeting.
The site of the proposed garage is just east of the hospital’s existing six-level garage and just south of the Belmont Village retirement community.
“The growth in the number of patients seeking treatment on the Rush Oak Park Hospital campus continues to grow,” said Bruce Elegant, the hospital’s CEO, in a Tuesday morning interview. “We have increased demand, despite public transportation and putting in bike racks.”
The land on which the hospital hopes to build the new garage has been zoned for hospital use since the 1990s, said Elegant. That approval was won by the Wheaton Franciscan nuns who operated the hospital for several decades before ownership was transferred to the Rush system.
“The new garage would be no higher, and probably lower, than the current parking garage that is already on the campus,” said Elegant. Financing has not been finalized pending village approval of the project but Elegant estimates the project will cost around $27 million.
“Every day we get complaints from neighbors about patients parking on their streets,” said Elegant. “This would allow us to move those patients who are currently parking on residential streets into a garage on hospital property.”
The new garage would also not add traffic to residential streets, he said. “It would be constructed such that the traffic flow would not empty out into the neighborhoods,” said Elegant. “The traffic would come back to where the old E.R. is, where the traffic light is going out onto Madison [Street].” Only preliminary renderings have been created.
“We are not expanding out into the neighborhood, we’re using our own footprint,” said Elegant. The new parking garage would prevent the lights from the other garage from shining into homes on Wenonah Avenue, another source of neighborhood complaints, he said.
Elegant said the hospital had not actively engaged with neighbors prior to making its request to village hall, but will participate in the public hearing in early November.
Just last week Rush Oak Park opened a $30 million new ER on its campus.
“We are investing major multi-million dollars into providing healthcare to the community,” said Elegant. “The village community is responding to that with increasing utilization of the hospital. This is our attempt to respond to the major concerns, not just on Wenonah, but across the whole neighborhood, to get cars off the street.”
Letters to residents near the area where the hospital wants to build the new garage were sent out this week. A public hearing about the project is set for Nov. 7, where neighbors can ask questions or voice concerns.
This story has been updated to reflect that Rush Oak Park Hospital officials will be present at the Nov. 7.