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Swedish Covenant Hospital Expansion Amendment Passed by Plan Commission

Swedish Covenant Hospital won approval Thursday from the Chicago Plan Commission to move forward with plans to expand its Lincoln Square medical center.

The 238,000-square-foot building will include a surgical center, medical office space and a 260-spot parking garage.

The building’s first five levels will be for parking. The first floor also will include retail space, while the second level will contain office space and the third level will house the surgery center.

Swedish Covenant has had a shortage of office space for the past five years, and the hospital’s current surgical facilities are at full capacity, said Joe Gattuso, an attorney for the hospital.

“This has impeded the hospital’s ability to offer new programs and services to the community,” said Gattuso.

Gattuso told the plan commission the expansion would help the North Side hospital become more efficient and would allow the current surgical facilities to be used for more complex in-patient procedures.

No public money will be used for the expansion, Swedish Covenant Hospital President Mark Newton said in an interview with reporters after the meeting. The total cost of the project will be roughly $49.8 million.

Michael Czyrka, whose company is building the expansion, said the project has been well-received in Ravenswood.

“We’ve held public hearing, and the reaction is, ‘We understand the hospital needs to grow,’” said Czyrka, principal-in-charge of BSA Life Structures.

Czyrka said one change was to make sure hospital traffic exited onto California Avenue and not a residential neighborhood.

“That was a change based on community input,” said Czyrka.

Ald. Patrick O’Connor (40th) said the expansion will be good for the economy.

“Other area hospitals have closed. They (Swedish Covenant) employ people from four zip codes around the hospital. Those people spend money in the area,” he said.

But not everyone was happy with the expansion plan.

Plan commission Chairwoman Linda Searl questioned the need for five levels of parking for a three-level building.

“It seems to me this is overwhelming for this neighborhood,” said Searl.

Gattuso said the five levels of parking are needed to serve both the Swedish Covenant Hospital at 5145 N. California Ave. and the adjacent Professional Plaza at 2740 W. Foster Ave

Newton told Searl the hospital looked at other options, but it’s difficult to expand in an urban setting and keep the hospital growing.

“We have very limited long-term options. This is the only place that we can develop an economical building that will meet both the surgical and medical office spaces,” said Newton.

A parking lot currently sits on the site where the new facility will be built.

After the meeting, Gattuso told reporters the expansion plan has been in the works for years.

“This was the product of a long, careful process involving physicians, patients, hospital administration and after the initial design was conceived, the community and the alderman,” said Gattuso.

But the process is not over yet.

The ordinance will be referred to the Department of Zoning and Land Use Planning on Nov. 23, then onto a full City Council vote in late November.

Saliba Kokaly, Swedish Covenant Hospital’s associate vice president of facilities and construction, said he hopes construction will begin in January.

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