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Some Little Village residents oppose St. Anthony Hospital’s expansion plan

Hospital project would use 11 acres controlled by Chicago Public Schools.

A rendering of Focal Point Community Campus where St. Anthony Hospital will be if approved.
Provided

Some Little Village residents want to block a proposal for a new hospital on 11 acres of vacant property controlled by Chicago Public Schools.

St. Anthony’s Hospital has shown strong interest in buying the land in partnership with the Chicago Southwest Development Corp. for several years. The project has been estimated at nearly $600 million.

The debris-filled land near the corner of 31st Street and Kedzie Avenue is the site of the former Washburne Trade School, which was demolished over a decade ago.

St. Anthony, 2875 W. 19th St., wants to transform the parcel into a mixed-use development that offers “a combination of retail, wellness, education, arts and recreation services.”

More recently, Cinespace Chicago Film Studio has shown interest in the land. Cinespace didn’t return a call for comment.

“The thing is, there has never been any community engagement efforts from the city, and we are asking they do more to hear from us,” resident Lucky Camargo said Thursday.

“We want this 11 acres of public land to remain public,” Camargo said. “This land belongs to the public, and not once has the city engaged us to see what the community actually wants to put here.”

St. Anthony disagreed.

“Everything proposed on the project came from community input,” said Jim Sifuentes, the hospital’s senior vice president of mission and community development. “Everything we have done and will do is for the benefit of the community.”

Camargo said community residents still don’t know what is being proposed.

“We would love for a new trade school that did what Washburne did for this community all those years ago,” Camargo said. “Of course, we would need the school to focus on trade involving 21st century technology and the current work needs of our community.”

Washburne was moved to the site in 1958 and was a renowned education center for people pursuing careers in various trades. About 17 unions were involved in the school that helped train students in apprenticeship programs. The number of unions associated with the school dwindled as factories moved out of Chicago.

Sifuentes said the project, which will involve 32 acres if completed, will include a trade school.

“We are going to have a vocational school, child care on site, there is going to be a recreation center, a business incubator and, of course, access to health care as well,” he said.

Washburne Trade School on 31st Street and Kedzie Avenue photographed in 1963.
Washburne Trade School on 31st Street and Kedzie Avenue photographed in 1963.
Sun-Times file photo

Manny Ramos is a corps member of Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.