“They’d like to be involved in any future plans. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.” That’s what Dino Rumoro, the new CEO of Rush Oak Park Hospital, said this week about residential neighbors of the hospital.

We’ve been waiting 20 years for a local hospital chief to make such a simple, straightforward statement acknowledging the inevitable tension between the needs of a hospital to grow, the encroachment concerns of immediate neighbors, and the benefits of ongoing and respectful dialogue. 

Rumoro was talking to our Stacey Sheridan about parking, a knotty problem in our landlocked village. The hospital last week opened a new 80-car surface lot between Maple and Harlem. Good, said Rumoro, but not enough. 

He also talked candidly about the hospital’s village-approved plan to construct a 713-space parking garage on Wenonah Avenue and how that project, now on hold due to COVID, created financial challenges for the hospital. But he also said the hospital has been talking to neighbors about their concerns and he shared his own worry that the new garage is too far from the main hospital.

David Osta, head of the Center West Oak Park Neighborhood Association, said the conversation between neighbors and Rumoro was “a new way of interacting” and that neighbors look forward to “rebalancing the relationship” between Rush and its neighbors.

Now the hospital is taking a pause, looking for other parking options elsewhere on its cramped campus, and continuing to talk with neighbors. Rumoro said Rush Oak Park may apply for an extension on its current approval from the village just to keep that plan on the table.

This would also be a good moment for Oak Park’s village government to take its thumb off the scales and to insist that all future development at either of Oak Park’s hospitals have active engagement with neighbors at its core.

There is no simple solution. But certainly active, early discussions beat a cold shoulder.

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