After 97 years of service, Columbus Hospital, 2520 N. Lakeview Ave., has seen its last patient. The hospital’s parent company, Catholic Health Partners, closed it on Friday, Sept. 28, for all patient care activities.
The fate of this prime piece of real estate remains undecided, although developer Nick Gouletas of American Invsco has purchased it and presented a controversial proposal to the Lincoln Park community to build twin residential towers on the site.
Founded in 1905 by America’s first citizen saint, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, and the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus-Stella Marie Province, Columbus Hospital was part of a health care system that included Saint Cabrini and Cuneo Hospitals.
In 1993, Saint Anthony Hospital was purchased by Columbus-Cabrini Health System and, along with St. Joseph Hospital, merged in 1995 to form Catholic Health Partners. Earlier this year St. Joseph Hospital was sold to Resurrection Health Care on Chicago’s Northwest side.
Both Columbus and St. Joseph hospitals made their names and reputations through a history of service to the sick and poor in their communities. The one illness they could not overcome, though, was the health care industry’s own ‘profit plague’ which of late has handicapped medical institutions all over Chicagoland and, indeed, the entire country.
“It’s indicative of the poor state of health care in the country today,” said Emily Peterson, a spokesperson for Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital whose large Lake View facility may not gain many of Columbus’s patients. “They’ve known about it for a while and have been transitioning most of their patients to St. Joseph. We’ll pick up some 1,600 patients a year from the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch (CINN),” she said.
In July Advocate Health Care signed a letter of intent with the world-renowned CINN to relocate its 35,000 square foot center and 24 surgeons from Columbus Hospital to Advocate Ravenswood Hospital this fall.
“It’s a sad day for the entire community when we lose as fine an institution as Columbus Hospital. None of us would have ever expected it,” said Ald. Vi Daley (43rd). “Now it is of great concern to all of us with one less health care provider in our area. They will not soon be forgotten.”
In many cases, particularly on the North Side, health care institutions have succumbed to their underlying real estate value as their own profit margins shrunk or disappeared. Condominium projects now grace the streets which once housed small and medium sized medical institutions who found their huge debt loads and high overheads too much to bear in the last 20 years. Such a future seems to be the destiny of the site of Columbus Hospital as well.
“So many of our area families have been a part of Columbus Hospital that it’s really a shame to see them go,” said Kim Klausmeier, president of the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce. “When I think of the tens of thousands of births, death and ills they’ve dealt with over the years it’s hard to truly grasp their value or the deep loss to the community.”
“We understand the economics of this and no matter how much good an institution may have done for a community, they cannot hide from their own bottom line,” said Klausmeier.
As for the real estate left behind, Invsco’s plans are up in the air. A presentation made to the Lincoln Park community in June was roundly rejected and few new details have been made public. Gouletas’s plans called for the hospital building to be demolished. The shrine and chapel that house the remains of Mother Cabrini (currently hidden from view by the hospital building) would be spared and remain a part of the green space of the future development.
Two high-rise residential towers, a mid rise and townhomes, totaling approximately 400 residential units, were proposed to be built surrounding the small church. The south tower was to be approximately 350 feet tall and the north tower would be 450 feet tall. The whole project would have added 1.2 million square feet of new real estate to the area, including a new 1,000-car indoor garage on the 3.3 acre parcel.
Many Lincoln Park residents remain unconvinced that this plan has much merit, fearing the project would make an already crowded and congested area nearly impassable.
“We continue to work with the neighbors and the developer but there is still no agreement,” said Daley. “I’ve seen three plans already and hopefully we’ll have a settlement between them within the next few weeks.”
Only the chapel, the National Shrine of St. Francis X. Cabrini and select administrative services will remain open until the end of the year.
The hospital’s patient records will remain a part of Catholic Health Partners and will be accessible through St. Anthony Hospital. Interested parties can get details by calling (773) 484-4365.