A dramatic change at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital officially began Friday with the ceremonial groundbreaking for a $378 million expansion.
Years in the planning, the largest construction project ever approved in the affluent North Shore community will blend world-class health care in a bucolic setting, say those associated with the plan.
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"We're building an entirely new hospital and revitalizing the existing campus," said Tom McAfee, president of Lake Forest Hospital. "We want this campus, when complete, to be a destination for health and wellness."
With the Lake Forest Symphony Orchestra providing background music, about 300 doctors, administrators, politicians, benefactors and others gathered in an air-conditioned tent to hear McAfee and others discuss the project.
The 463,000-square-foot hospital has a construction budget of $220 million and will include 114 private inpatient beds and eight operating rooms. The total cost with landscaping, the central power plant and all equipment and furnishings is $378 million.
It is the first part of development for the redesigned 160-acre campus to integrate medical care with health and wellness. Hiking and biking trails will link with the Lake Forest Health and Fitness Center and a new common area for community activities. Education and research facilities are planned for the southern part of campus but are not part of this construction project.
"When we open in three years, this will be one of the top community teaching hospitals in the United States," McAfee said.
Lake Forest Mayor Donald Schoenheider said the city was "special in a lot of ways," including its history and tradition, and he noted the 18-month city approval process represented the "epitome of collaboration."
"It won't be just great. It will be extraordinary," he said.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who had an ischemic stroke in January 2012 and was treated at Northwestern facilities, also spoke at the ceremonial groundbreaking.
"If you need a brain overhaul, come here," he quipped. Kirk said hospital systems in Illinois are having a tough time recruiting but this new facility would attract top people and be "really important for the economic development of Illinois."
The hospital, scheduled to open in 2017, will be a series of connected pavilions arranged in a crescent shape around a pond. The building was designed by world renowned Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects of New Haven, Connecticut.
It will replace the main facility built in 1942 on farm land donated by the Dick family of copier and office supply fame. The future of that and other buildings has not been determined.
"A lot has changed since 1942," McAfee said. "Certainly, we've made many upgrades over the years, but at some point it's not efficient."
The hospital is a wholly owned entity of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, which acquired Lake Forest Hospital in 2010.