Construction Surge on Horizon

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), June 25, 2011 | Go to article overview

Construction Surge on Horizon


Byline: Anna Madrzyk amadrzyk@dailyherald.com

Elmhurst Memorial Hospitals $450 million main campus opening today is one of the first and biggest health care projects completed since the economic downturn.

Construction already was under way in 2008 when financing for many such projects dried up due to the crisis in the bond market.

Similarly, Sherman Hospitals 255-bed replacement hospital in Elgin, which opened in December 2009, was ahead of the bad economic curve.

So, too, was the $1 billion Ann & Robert H. Lurie Childrens Hospital in Chicago, which broke ground in 2008. The 23-floor replacement for Childrens Memorial is scheduled to open in June 2012.

Such high-profile projects with long timelines make it seem as though hospitals are immune to the recessions effects.

In fact, except for projects already in the pipeline, health care construction slowed considerably in 2009 and 2010, experts say.

Now that money is loosening up again, pent-up demand is likely to lead to a surge in hospital building, experts say.

"All the bond markets came to a halt, and some of that paint was splattered on hospitals ... but the underlying hospital sector has remained strong," said health care consultant James Unland, president of Health Capital Group in Chicago.

Next week, for example, the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board is slated to vote on proposals for two new hospitals in McHenry County.

Centegra Health Systems wants to build a $233 million, 128-bed facility in Huntley. Mercy Health Systems proposes a $199 million, 128-bed hospital in Crystal Lake.

The board meets on June 28. Illinois Department of Public Health staff reviewers said the proposals would provide more beds than needed in the area, but the board is not mandated to follow the findings.

Down the road, Edward Hospital in Naperville is likely to come back with plans to build a new hospital in Plainfield.

In January 2009, the planning board rejected Edwards proposal to build a $241 million, 130-bed facility in Plainfield.

"When the time is right, we plan to bring a hospital to Plainfield," said Keith Hartenberger, public relations specialist for Edward Hospital & Health Services.

"Were committed to developing Edward Plainfield Hospital and are keeping a watchful eye on the economy and hospital utilization, so well be ready to go when those factors are favorable and the regulatory situation is more clearly defined."

The Centegra and Mercy proposals aside, however, some expert say huge projects like new hospitals will be less common than renovations.

"Most hospitals and health care systems are in a wait-and-see mode," said Albert Manshum, vice president of facilities & construction for Advocate Health Care. …

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