Itasca mayor asks Haymarket if it will use former hotel during COVID-19 crisis
Haymarket Center's acquisition of an Itasca hotel has the mayor questioning whether the nonprofit group will seek to use the building as a temporary medical facility during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chicago-based Haymarket on Monday bought the former Holiday Inn along Irving Park Road that it hopes to convert into a drug and alcohol treatment center. The purchase price was $7.5 million, according to county records.
The sale shocked opponents trying to block Haymarket's plan. It also seemed to surprise Mayor Jeff Pruyn, who says the village only learned recently that Haymarket was buying the hotel without first getting zoning approval.
Haymarket has been trying to get village approval to transform the building into a 240-bed facility for patients with substance-use disorders.
Plan commissioners started hosting public hearings in October, but the process is on hold until the state lifts restrictions on large crowds.
On Monday, Pruyn sent a letter to Dr. Dan Lustig, Haymarket's president and CEO, asking to clarify what it plans for the 7-acre site. He also asked if Haymarket plans to use the building as a temporary medical facility during the pandemic.
In a statement Wednesday, Pruyn said the village has learned the Illinois Emergency Management Agency identified the site for possible use for:
• People who test positive for COVID-19 who do not need hospitalization but require isolation (including those from hospitals);
• People who have been exposed but do not require hospitalization;
• and asymptomatic high-risk people needing social distancing as a precautionary measure, such as people older than 65 or with underlying health conditions.
In a letter to the mayor, Lustig wouldn't confirm any COVID-19 plans, but didn't dismiss the possibilities.
During the pandemic, Lustig wrote, Haymarket "stands ready to assist, as it is able, other medical service providers who are facing this unprecedented crisis in care."
Lustig said Haymarket is in "active communication" with its peers "with the common purpose of saving lives and lifting the current burden on the medical community."
Pruyn on Wednesday said Haymarket "failed to proactively notify the village of its intentions."
He said Lustig's letter also doesn't address whether Haymarket will seek to have the property removed from the tax rolls "even when the building is not being used for nonprofit purposes."