In the 32 years my family and I have lived next to Rush Oak Park Hospital, we have seen how the hospital has repeatedly ignored neighbors’ valid concerns as it has encroached further and further into the neighborhood. The hospital has torn down single-family homes in the 600 block of Wisconsin to make way for a massive medical office building and bulldozed the west side of the entire block of 500 Wenonah for a proposed parking garage.
Now the hospital is gobbling up homes in the 600 block of Maple Avenue, and wants the village to rezone the properties from a residential district to a hospital district. Astonishingly, the hospital refuses to reveal what it plans to do with the properties. This latest request marks a new low in the hospital’s longstanding lack of transparency and neighborhood engagement.
The hospital wants to demolish four residential buildings, take them off the property rolls and turn the north end of the block into a big, vacant lot. The hospital says the lot would remain vacant for 12 to 18 months or longer before the hospital receives funding and approval from Rush to build its secret project.
The hospital argues that vacant buildings are undesirable, so it is doing the neighborhood a favor by turning them instead into an ugly, vacant lot. This is an astonishing argument, since the hospital itself is to blame for creating the vacant buildings.
The hospital rezoning request is now before the Oak Park Village Board. The board can protect the character of the neighborhood by tabling the rezoning request until the hospital:
Discloses its plans for the properties it already has purchased on Maple, and as well as any additional properties it may purchase
Develops a Master Plan and shares it with the Plan Commission and the neighbors
Meets with neighbors and incorporates their input before proceeding with further additions to its campus
In the meantime, the village should require the hospital to properly maintain the properties it has purchased on Maple, rather than allowing them to deteriorate further into boarded-up eyesores.