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Neighborhoods Thu Feb 20 2014

The Saga of Edgewater Medical Center

Edgewater Medical Center
Edgewater Medical Center; photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz/Flickr

Sitting between Hollywood and Edgewater on Ashland is a vacant decaying building. The building is that of Edgewater Medical Center, which has been closed since 2001.

The hospital has three claims to fame: the first and second are that it is the birthplace of Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Wayne Gacy. The third claim to fame is the reason why the hospital closed.

It came to light in 2001 that Edgewater Medical Center had been defrauding Medicare. Among the procedures the hospital was performing were unnecessary angioplasties, and two patients died from the unneeded procedures. Eventually, the fraud came to light and Medicare decided to stop reimbursing Edgewater Medical Center. The hospital closed in December 2001 after a string of financial problems, left in a state that seems as if everyone up and left.

Twelve years later, Edgewater Medical Center still sits empty, a dangerous eyesore.

During the 12 years since its closure there has been a lengthy debate over what to do with the land. Should the site of the hospital be used for condos or for what residents feel is a much-needed green space?

Who is in Charge of Edgewater Medical Center?

The hospital sits within the boundaries of the Edgewater/Ashland TIF District. In 2003, a study regarding the creation of the TIF district suggested the parcels of land the medical center sits on be used as mixed-use, consisting of residential, commercial public and park. [PDF]

When the City approved the area for a TIF district the documents pointed to the steady decay of the buildings. The area was approved to be a TIF district in 2003 and the buildings have only continued to decay.

It could be seen that funds from the TIF district could help attract developers to the area to redevelop the property. But a problem exists due to the large debts owed to various parties.

The Edgewater Medical Center Bankruptcy Estate, according to a New York Times and Chicago News Cooperative article, owns Edgewater Medical Center and consists of the various groups owed money by the hospital. There are more than 250 creditors making up the Bankruptcy Estate, which could be why various problems with the hospital have not been handled properly.

The Tribune and WGN released an investigative story in Sept. 2013 on medical records that had been sitting inside of the hospital since its closure. Under Illinois law, hospitals must keep medical records for at least 10 years, a law that applies to hospitals even after they close. The law can be circumvented if it is argued the records cannot be properly stored due to lack of funds, as Michael Reese Hospital did in bankruptcy court. The hospital was able to destroy the medical records after a ruling from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, according to the Tribune article on Edgewater Medical Center's medical records.

Under that law, Edgewater Medical Center could have destroyed the medical records in 2011.

After the investigation was released, a lawyer filed a motion to destroy the medical records.

Although there is a plethora of creditors involved with the complex, there is one group actively involved with the attempt to redevelop the area. Waveland Partners, which was hired in 2009 by Dexia, owner of the estate, according to a DNAinfo Chicago article, has presented various proposals over the years about how to redevelop the complex.

The first proposal was presented in 2011. Waveland Partners has presented several plans for redevelopment since then.

Waveland Partners did not return a request for an interview.

The Call for a Park

Some of the residents of the Edgewater and Andersonville area wanted to see the medical center turned into a green space, fulfilling a need for such a space in that neighborhood. Jim Donovan and Andrew Strand formed the Friends of West Edgewater Park in 2010 to advocate for a park to be created on the current site of the medical center.

"This part of the city is underserved by green space," Craig Cernek, current president of the Friends of West Edgewater Park, said.

According to the group's website there is no park in that area. The nearest park requires a 30 minute walk, according to the website.

Friends of West Edgewater Park has met with several politicians about their cause, particularly Ald. Pat. O'Connor (40th Ward). The group has also attended meetings where Waveland Partners has presented proposals for the site.

The most recent proposal Waveland Partners presented included a park and a mixed-use development, as well as 19 single-family residences.

Cernek said the benefit of the building would be that it would "protect the park from the noise and traffic of Ashland."

"If we could, we would like to have the entire property of the hospital become the park," Cernek said. "There are plenty of different uses of the space for the community. The reality of it is we do not have the means to acquire the land."

According to Curbed Chicago, the Chicago Park District agreed to take ownership of the park when the most recent proposal was presented in 2013.

There have been other proposals for redeveloping the medical center, including affordable housing for LGBT seniors. [PDF] Even with all of the discussion and ideas that have been floated, the hospital still stands on Ashland.

What Lies Ahead

As discussion continues, Edgewater Medical Center remains a dangerous building. Two teens were injured while playing on the roof of the hospital in 2011 when an electrical transformer reportedly blew. As evidenced by pictures on Flickr and complaints regarding the hospital, people have entered the building and have tagged the interior of the building.

While Edgewater Medical Center has remained vacant, casting a gloomy shadow over Ashland, Lincoln Park Hospital, Michael Reese Hospital, Ravenswood Hospital and the old Prentice Women's Hospital have all closed and been demolished.

Potentially the biggest problem facing the redevelopment of Edgewater Medical Center is the cost of demolishing the complex and cleaning the area. Although it is unknown how much demolition would cost, it has been speculated there would have to be a clean-up done due to flooding that has occurred in the building since the closure of the hospital. According to an article by Scott Baltric in The Architect's Newspaper, Dexia would like funding from the TIF district to help pay for demolition.

Meanwhile residents and groups in the area continue to hope the property will be redeveloped.

"Our market studies show that we need more daytime traffic, so a redevelopment that would bring some daytime traffic would be helpful," said Ellen Shepard, executive director of the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce.

Although it seems likely the property will someday have some sort of a residential development, the residents of Edgewater and Andersonville can only wait to learn whether there will be the park some residents want and when anything will happen.

Jim Donovan / February 21, 2014 3:04 PM

One key point raised with Ald. O'Connor on several occasions; has been the utilization of funds around $8Million Dollars for the arboretum on Peterson and Western. These funds should have been used for a park rather than an arboretum which is in an unfortunate and heavily trafficked location. The answer now is to use the EMC site to put up high-end single family homes on 1/2 of the parcel with the front half to be a park! Any other solution is unrealistic and does not fit the character of the area. Let's finally get this done and move on; and most of all be realistic! Thanks, Jim Donovan

stan / February 24, 2014 11:42 AM

The Edgewater Medical Center should be made into a public park named after Hillary Rodham, who was born there in 1947.

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