Empty Children’s Hospital site impacts local businesses

Children’s Memorial Hospital closed June 2012, and since then, local businesses have felt the aftereffects. While the area is certainly not desolate, the loss of a major local hospital means that restaurants, thrift stores and other business have also lost a steady stream of potential customers.

Both small and franchised businesses close to the hospital have felt the pressure of losing customers. According to DNAinfo Chicago, Costello’s Sandwiches, a 7-Eleven, America’s Dog, Uptowner Caf’ÛΩ and 93-year-old shop White Elephant have closed their doors. Fox News reported that White Elephant was able to sustain itself in the past with the help of Children’s Memorial Hospital, who “allowed the shop to operate without paying rent or property taxes because they donated all their proceeds to the hospital.”

Nathan Rappa, a DePaul student and shift manager at Jimmy John’s, said the hospital closing has definitely affected their business.

“They were a big percentage of our business as far as delivery and in shop. We don’t get that anymore because they are out of our delivery area,” Rappa said.

Robert Sotelo, manager at the Chipotle on Lincoln Avenue and Orchard Street, said that the hospital closing has also greatly impacted their revenue. “We were selling $6,200 (a day), and now we’re making about $3,800,” Sotelo said. While the Chipotle location is still stable, Sotelo said that they are planning on relocating to a different Lincoln Park area because of the drop in business.

Even though more than a year has passed since Children’s Memorial Hospital closed, nothing has stepped up to take its place. At first it looked as if developer Daniel McCaffery would be taking on the project, as he was, according to chicagobusiness. com, even willing to contribute a “former nurse-training facility on the campus for an expansion of the nearby overcrowded Lincoln public elementary school.”

Even if McCaffery was hoping for some possible leeway in height/density building regulations in return, this seems like it would be a no harm, no foul type of deal; however, area residents do not see it that way.

The Chicago Tribune reported claims of racism have been thrown at Ward 43 Alderman Michele Smith, as this would be even more money going towards schools that would end up serving mostly white and wealthy students. These claims, along with those of neighbors of the old hospital unhappy with plans that are according to Smith, “Simply too dense and too tall for Lincoln Park,” have put any plans for the prime real estate on hold.

Smith said that while schools are already overcrowded, the added condominiums in McCaffery’s plans would bring in more school aged children and add to the problem.

Local resident and owner of Johnny’s Beef & Gyros on Lincoln, Nick Anastopoulos, said, “If they build condos and have an influx of children, they will have to build another school. There would be no other option.”

Anastopoulos recommended putting in business complexes or having DePaul use the facility. Whatever they do, action must be taken soon.  Anastopoulos put it best when he answered the question, “What is the next best move in the hospital renovation?” by simply saying, “It’d be nice if it was developed quickly.”