NMH, RIC to Lease VA Land
Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH) and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) are one step closer to leasing the land occupied by the former VA Lakeside Medical Center (VALMC). During a formal ceremony on January 18 in Washington, NMH and RIC officials met with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi to sign documents to finalize a lease agreement for the VA property.
In August 2003 the VA had shifted Lakeside’s inpatient services to the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center’s West Side facility. The Lakeside Outpatient Clinic remains on the former VALMC site, and under the terms of the lease, the VA could continue to operate the clinic until December 31, 2007.
The “enhanced-use lease” is expected to generate up to $50 million for the VA. The 75-year lease includes an option for NMH and RIC to purchase the property outright. The VA acquired the property from Northwestern University in the 1950s and built the hospital in 1954. The hospital became affiliated with Northwestern the following year and was an important clinical education facility for medical students, residents, and fellows.
Both NMH and RIC are eager to expand their facilities. Since 1999, when NMH opened its $580 million, 482-bed replacement hospital, measuring 1.2 million square feet, the hospital has operated at or near capacity. One block away, the RIC operates its flagship 165-bed inpatient facility. RIC has grown to offer inpatient care, outpatient care, and day rehabilitation services at more than 30 sites in the Chicago area and Southern Illinois.
Last fall, when news of the lease agreement broke, Wayne M. Lerner, DPH, RIC president and chief executive officer, commented, “Rehabilitation medicine came into being to serve veterans and was expanded to the civilian population by Dr. Paul Magnuson, founder of the RIC…. We can think of no more appropriate use of the VA property than the continuation and expansion of this shared legacy.”
“This is a momentous advancement in health care for our community,” said Gary A. Mecklenburg, president and chief executive officer of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, NMH’s parent organization. “Continued medical use of the VA property will support the growing downtown population and ensures the region’s emerging health care needs are met for decades to come. There is not one single block in all of Chicago more uniquely and ideally suited to the expansion of specialized health care services for the neighborhood, city, and region.”