As neighbors of Rush Oak Park Hospital (ROPH) and members of the Central West Oak Park Neighborhood Association, we appreciate Wednesday Journal’s continuing coverage of the hospital’s proposal to build a 6- to 7-story parking garage and close a portion of Monroe Street in our residential neighborhood. This issue is important for all Oak Parkers as it sets a precedent for business encroachment into our residential neighborhoods.
We would like to add some additional perspective to the Journal’s front-page story about the Nov. 7 Plan Commission meeting regarding the proposed parking garage. After failing to address serious concerns raised by both neighbors and members of the Plan Commission, the hospital asked that its proposal be shelved until the Plan Commission’s February 2020 meeting. These concerns include the following:
1. ROPH has no master plan for its Oak Park campus, and this lack of planning is reflected in its ad hoc approach to current and historical campus development and community relations. Lack of planning is the root cause of the current traffic and parking problems that ROPH now seeks to solve.
2. ROPH did not provide conclusive evidence on the number of parking spaces it needs. In 2017, ROPH claimed no additional parking needs associated with projected growth of services on its campus, yet two years later it claims to need 600 additional parking spaces days after the opening of its new Emergency Department. ROPH needs to provide consistent numbers in line with a comprehensive master plan.
3. ROPH did not provide a feasibility study for alternate locations for a parking garage within the ROPH campus along existing commercial corridors. ROPH should prioritize keeping all campus traffic away from its residential neighbors.
4. ROPH did not present a viable solution for keeping non-local hospital traffic out of residential alleys and streets, which jeopardizes the safety of our neighborhood residents, including many small children. ROPH should do whatever is necessary to avoid this risk.
5. The proposal did not meet minimum design standards used for other recent parking garages constructed within Oak Park, which are intended to minimize the impact of light, air and noise pollution on neighboring single-family homes.
We value the benefits ROPH provides to our neighborhood, village and surrounding communities. However, we also feel strongly that ROPH should go through a rigorous process to plan for future growth that considers the needs of all stakeholders impacted by its plans. We were disappointed by the failure of ROPH to include neighbors in its process. This failure resulted in a proposal that puts the safety of our neighborhood residents at risk, ignores the design challenges posed by a 6- to 7-story parking garage interfacing with 1- to 2-story single-family homes and condominiums, and erodes the trust of the surrounding residents.
At the Nov. 7 meeting, the Plan Commission approved a continuance until February and encouraged ROPH to work with the community and incorporate its feedback into future plans. We appreciate this position, as we believe a transparent, inclusive and rigorous process will deliver a positive outcome that meets the needs of our collective community. We look forward to collaborating with ROPH, the village, and other relevant stakeholders to address the above concerns.
David Burna, Rachel Hahs, David Osta,
Central West Oak Park