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Lincoln Park Businesses Prepare for Hospital Relocation

Children's Hospital is pulling the plug on its current location.Image by José Goulão via Flickr

Anxiety from Lincoln Park business owners over the economic impact and future of the site currently occupied by Children’s Memorial Hospital grows as the date for its move and renovation draws near. They worry that the loss of foot traffic will hurt their bottom lines.

“The hospital brings a lot of business to restaurants in the area,” said Sam Sanchez, owner of John Barleycorn, 658 W. Belden Ave.

The loss of the hospital, located at Fullerton and Lincoln Avenues, could result in an economic loss to the area of $9.3 million to $35.1 million and between 334 and 1,274 jobs, according to a study commissioned by the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council (MCHC).

The hospital will be closing next June, and McCaffery Interests has been selected to develop the space. They plan on turning it into mixed-use retail and housing development, according to the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce.

Plans for the redevelopment of the location are still in a preliminary stage, said Allen Mellis in an email. Mellis is a member of the  Wrightwood Neighbors Association (WNA) board of directors, who’ve been meeting with both the developer and the hospital.

“I would caution business owners to think about the transition,” said Padraic Swanton, director of marketing and communications at the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, adding that he thinks community residents should make a strong effort to support local businesses during the transition period.

Sanchez said the closing of a Roly Poly sandwich shop is a harbinger of things to come. “You’ll see more of that story over the next year,” said Sanchez. “More retail stores hurt the community and small business owners.”

Swanton, on the other hand, disagrees. “When people see investment in retail, they’ll want to invest more,” he said.

“It’s not just employees coming to the hospital, but also families visiting,” said Leslie Oppenheimer, business chair of Wrightwood Neighbors Association (WNA) board of directors. “That’s a lot of people eating and shopping.”

1.5 million people visit the hospital campus annually, or 4,100 every day, according to the MCHC study. 985,500 of those annual visits are by employees. The rest are patients, visiting family and friends, and hospital vendors who all spend their money in the area.

“It’s going to hurt all the small shops [nearby],” said Sanchez about the use of the hospital site as retail space.

Sanchez suggested building a hotel on the land instead, citing DePaul’s nearby campus and high demand for rooms in area hotels.

Oppenheimer said simply the money isn’t there for a hotel.

“[A hotel] is something we brought up to the developer, but it’s hard to get financing for hotels right now,” said Oppenheimer. “We’ve tossed around a lot of ideas to the developer.”

Oppenheimer added that business owners were pleased to hear the developer will keep the existing parking facility on the hospital property.

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