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New St. Anthony Hospital to be part of $600 million development at former trade school site in Little Village

But not all residents are happy. Some had wanted the site to remain in public hands and perhaps even have a new CPS trade school built there.

Rendering of the Focal Point Community Campus that will be home to the new St. Anthony Hospital, as well as affordable housing, retail businesses and a trade school.
Rendering of the Focal Point Community Campus that will be home to the new St. Anthony Hospital, as well as affordable housing, retail businesses and a trade school.
Focal Point Community Campus

When Lucky Camargo drives past the vast stretch of vacant land on 31st Street and Kedzie Avenue, she’s reminded of what used to be in Little Village.

It’s the site of the old Washburne Trade School, which she said created secure, well-paying jobs for people in the community. But now, the neighborhood is at the mercy of an unstable gig economy.

“This neighborhood is under siege and income inequality is rampant, which makes this type of exploitation possible,” Camargo said. “They [St. Anthony Hospital] benefit from public dollars and then collect all the profits once it’s done.”

The Chicago City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a $5 million bid from St. Anthony to buy the vacant land.

Slated for the site is a $600 million project, the Focal Point Community Campus. The 32-acre mixed-use project also will have affordable housing, retail, recreation centers and a trade school.

Camargo told the Sun-Times she had wanted to see the land remain in public hands and perhaps become home to a new state-of-the-art CPS trade school. It’s not enough, she said, for Focal Point to include a private trade school.

“I don’t understand why [the trade school] needs to be privatized since we lose complete control of the school … what happens when they decide to sell it?” Camargo said.

St. Anthony declined to comment.

St. Anthony will move its hospital to a newly developed 400,000-square-foot facility at Focal Point with about 150 beds. Its current facility at 2875 W. 19th St. will close, but St. Anthony will retain 1,000 jobs and create 20 additional permanent jobs.

The project also is estimated to create 1,500 temporary construction jobs, according to the agreement, though Camargo said there is “no stipulation that those workers need to be from Little Village.”

The developer will have six years to complete the project, with a possible one-year extension; if not, the land could revert to the city.

To Camargo, the sale is just one more mega-development upending the lives of longtime Little Village residents, coming after Hilco Redevelopment Partners’ new Target warehouse on the site of the old Crawford power plant and the purchase of Little Village Plaza by Novak Construction, which has hinted it might shutter the plaza’s Discount Mall.

But the project has the support of over a dozen political leaders, including U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and state Sen. Celina Villanueva.

Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd), whose ward includes the site, threw his full support behind the Focal Point project when it was voted on Wednesday, calling it a “major shot in the arm, not just for the 22nd Ward and Little Village but for North Lawndale, Brighton Park and so many other areas of our city.”

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