Community Forward Development Aims to Bridge Racial Divide

In an area traditionally plagued by high crime and joblessness ”and fighting the continued threat of reduced community resources” a future-thinking organization has announced plans for a financially self-sustaining campus, which will deliver a combination of retail, wellness, education, arts and recreation elements, customized to meet the needs of its community.

Saint Anthony Ministries has filed an application with the city of Chicago requesting approval of an almost 11-acre lot in the city’s Southwest side for its 1 million square-foot complex.

“This model is something that has never been done before and has the potential to transform community development in disadvantaged communities all across our country,” said Guy A. Medaglia, president and chief executive officer of Saint Anthony Ministries and of its subsidiary, Saint Anthony Hospital, which will relocate to serve as a tenant of the campus.

“What makes this idea unique is that once this campus is built, the income from its for-profit elements will supplement the financial needs of the not-for-profit elements, providing a much-needed solution to deliver medical, education and other services to a community that continues to be under resourced.”

Through the campus model, rental income from revenue-generating tenants”such as retail stores and schools, hospitality and day care, a parking garage, and the hospital and outpatient clinic ” will be reinvested into programs and services provided through the campus, such as continuing education and wellness classes, a center for creativity and a park and recreation center. Beyond being designed to provide the balance necessary to keep the model financially sound, each aspect of the campus was custom-selected based on research by Saint Anthony Ministries on the needs of the community.

“We understand that providing for the health of the community is much broader than traditional health care,” said Jim Sifuentes, vice president of mission and community development for Saint Anthony Hospital, who grew up in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, located just a few miles from the new campus site. “For someone to have a shot at a healthy life, you have to be able to buy healthy food, feed your mind with education, nurture your creativity through the arts, have a place to send your kids to keep them off the streets, and have a job to support your family.”

According to Medaglia, the campus will generate hundreds of new sustaining jobs for the campus itself and roughly 2,100 construction jobs, with hundreds more expected in retail services.

“This growth is much needed, given the high unemployment rate in the community,” said Alderman Michael Chandler, Chicago 24th Ward, one of the areas that will be served by the new Focal Point campus. “What’s important is that the sustaining financial nature of the campus also means sustaining, reliable employment for our residents. Top priorities for my ward are job creation and training”this campus brings us both.”

Residents of communities surrounding the campus will also be served by retail tenants providing important access to healthy food choices and to staples such as clothing and household goods; wellness programs that will educate on topics such as healthy food preparation, parenting skills and more; basketball courts and a half Olympic-size pool that will provide a sanctuary for at-risk youth; and Saint Anthony Hospital, which”as another tenant of the campus”will continue to provide emergency and medical care that turns no one away, regardless of ability to pay. The newly constructed Saint Anthony Hospital, which will reside at Focal Point, will replace its current location on West 19th Street and California Avenue.

“Especially in this traditionally divided area of the city, I’ve never seen an organization like Saint Anthony that stays so true to its charitable mission, and has gained such widespread community support that spans different races, religions and political affiliations,” said Alderman George Cardenas, chairman of the committee on health and environment, Chicago 12th Ward, where the hospital is currently located. “The community values the belief that change is not just possible but likely on the horizon with this inventive campus, and proud that a concept that starts right here in Chicago could serve as a model for other, similar communities across our nation.”

Local community groups, religious leaders from local area churches and other community leaders were also engaged as part of Saint Anthony Ministries’ assessment of community needs and in providing the vision that became the campus model.

The campus is also attracting interest in academia, and was recently the subject of a research study conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Architecture, and HDR Architecture. In a white paper published in April 2012 that details the study, the research identifies the community-centric hospital as an emerging model of health care and affirms that the Focal Point campus “represents new social, economic, education and wellness opportunities that can significantly improve the health and quality of life of local residents.”

Saint Anthony Ministries is spearheading the development of the Focal Point community campus through subsidiaries Chicago Southwest Community Corporation and Chicago Southwest Development Corporation, as well as through Saint Anthony Hospital, which will serve as a tenant of the campus. The Focal Point community campus will provide a variety of programs and services to more than 400,000 residents on the Southwest and West sides of Chicago.

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