A $20 million plan to repurpose a vacant office building in Vernon Hills for a psychiatric hospital is proceeding to the public hearing stage, but the reception may be mixed.
One certainty in US HealthVest's proposal for CDW's former administration building at 300 N. Milwaukee Ave., in the Continental Executive Parke, is strong support from Lake County United, a group of more than two dozen churches and other organizations.
"We're not having a hard time finding people who think this is really needed," said Amy Lawless, lead organizer for Lake County United. "A lot of people are affected by this issue to various degrees -- the response we're getting is telling."
The privately held US HealthVest operates the Chicago Behavioral Hospital in Des Plaines, two hospitals in Georgia and one in Washington, and it is pursuing a $22 million, 100-bed behavioral health hospital on Silver Cross Hospital's New Lenox campus.
The company is asking Vernon Hills officials to change zoning rules to allow hospitals to be permitted in a business district and is seeking a special-use permit to proceed. The village's advisory planning and zoning commission will hear the requests at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at village hall, 290 Evergreen Drive.
The village board last fall informally gave the go-ahead for the New York-based company to continue with staff review and the public hearing process for a 100-bed hospital providing specialized care to children, adolescents, adults and seniors.
Assistant Village Manager Joe Carey said an online petition opposing the proposal surfaced late last year and the unnamed originator was directed to the company. No recent activity has been noted, he said, but he was uncertain whether opponents would attend the public hearing.
In March, US HealthVest hosted two open house information sessions at the building, and two more were held Tuesday.
While attendance was small at the first one, company officials fielded several questions regarding the site selection, property tax impact and other aspects of the proposal.
The Vernon Hills building is 75,444 square feet on about 8 acres and, if approved, would open in late 2018 or early 2019. The hospital would operate 24 hours a day and employ 150 people over three shifts.
Vice President Lisa Klein said the area lacks these services, and Vernon Hills was chosen for its central location. Reusing buildings is a company practice, she said, but it is not easy to find one of the appropriate size that can be repurposed to meet myriad requirements.
Klein said the company spent two months talking with public health and medical officials who were "enthusiastic and overjoyed" with the plan.
US HealthVest has received state approval to open a psychiatric hospital in northern Cook County/Lake County service area.
The company had proposed a $31.3 million facility in Northbrook, but the village declined to change a covenant on the land to allow that to proceed, according to Klein.