Carle considers expansion

By Whitney Blair Wyckoff

To address the need for more inpatient and outpatient space, Carle Foundation Hospital is looking into expanding its Urbana campus and adding satellite locations.

Carle is considering a $120 million project that would build an additional medical building on the Urbana hospital campus and add another parking lot.

To make room for this expansion, areas of Coler and Busey Avenues and Park Street may need to be vacated and 40 rental homes near the hospital campus may be in jeopardy.

Currently, Carle owns these rental homes and has demolished homes in this area for past construction projects.

“The way we’ve historically done it is when we’ve had a project, we took down a few homes that were in the path of that project,” said Andrew Manzer, Carle’s vice president of support services. He said the hospital used this tactic when it built the Carle Spine Institute in 2004.

Manzer also said that most of the residents of these homes are employees of Carle.

Last night, Manzer presented preliminary plans to the Urbana City Council to vacate areas of three streets: Coler Avenue from University Avenue to Church Street, Busey Avenue from University to Church and Park Street from Coler to Lincoln Avenue. This proposal will later return to the Council for official approval.

Esther Patt, coordinator for the University of Illinois tenant union, said that current residents cannot be evicted at the will of the landlord.

“If the tenants have a year’s lease, then they can’t be kicked out before their leases are up,” Patt said.

Patt also said that she has not received complaints from student tenants regarding this plan.

Carle is also considering purchasing 70 acres of land in northwest Champaign. While Manzer said that Carle is still unsure what the property would be used for, he said there is a need for more outpatient facilities.

Carle also plans to build an additional 36-bed facility called The Carle Rehabilitation Institute. The projected $18 million project will be an opportunity for the University and Carle to do more joint research, said Lynne Barnes, vice president of clinical operations and community and government affairs for Carle. Barnes, who also serves on the Urbana City Council, said there will be research opportunities specifically in bioengineering and rehab engineering.

“We want to have an emphasis on education and research,” Barnes said.

She also said that there would be more opportunities for internships through the hospital. Currently, the rehabilitation unit offers five or six internships or assistantships. Barnes said that she anticipates doubling or possibly tripling that number, due to the expansion of the department. Right now, there are 35 professionals working in the rehab division. After this new facility is built, that number could go up to 105.

“The University of Illinois is one of the most handicapped accessible Universities in the United States,” Barnes said. This new center “could make the Champaign-Urbana area a Mecca for rehab.”

Carle will present plans for this facility to the Planning Board during its June meeting. If approved, construction could begin as soon as this September, and the building will be completed in mid 2009. A petition to support the rehabilitation institute is available at Carle locations and at www.makethedifference.com.