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New design for hospital in Lake Forest clears key city hurdle

The redevelopment expansiNorthwestern Lake Forest Hospital city's west side is track begconstructi2015 patient move-mid-2017 officials said. | File

The redevelopment and expansion of Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital on the city's west side is on track to begin construction in 2015 and patient move-in in mid-2017, officials said. | File

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Updated: February 14, 2014 4:16AM

A crescent-shaped, three-story plan for the new Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital received unanimous approval from the Lake Forest Plan Commission last week.

In addition to the architectural design of the building, which overlooks a reflecting pool, the commission approved the overall site plan for the replacement hospital. That includes plans for exterior lighting and preliminary landscape layouts — the next steps in the project.

The City Council will get its first formal look at the new building design and review Plan Commission recommendations at its meeting at 7:30 p.m., on Tuesday, Jan. 21.

The new design features a first-floor “podium” that curves around a lake feature on the east side of the property, with four three-story “pavilions” that will house patient rooms and one two-story pavilion to house medical offices. The two-story building could potentially rise to three stories.

The approved master plan would allow for a hospital building double the height and a separate structure for medical offices.

The design for the new hospital just north of the current hospital building differs substantially from what the Plan Commission originally saw more than two years ago. This plan is the result of collaboration of hospital representatives, a city-appointed Hospital Advisory Committee and architects from Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects.

“When you first came before us, the original concept was more vertical in nature, which concerned neighbors,” commissioner Lloyd Culbertson said. “Now, we have a plan before us far more horizontal, far smaller in height.”

“We’ve not had to have a compromise between safety and quality and vertical issues we were originally concerned about,” President of Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital Thomas McAfee said.

The new hospital “will meet Northwestern University’s standard of medicine and with the community for the next 75 to 100 years,” he said.

The current hospital, dating from the early 1900s, is “at the end of its life,” McAfee said.

Mark Shoemaker of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects described the lower-scale crescent-shaped building, the water element to the east and parking to the west as “really cocooning the site to protect the neighborhoods and shield the view to the building until you get into interior portion of the site,” he said.

Some community members were concerned about a tall, illuminated building dominating the 165-acre hospital campus that lies adjacent to Route 41 just north of Deerpath.

During the opportunity for public comment, John Sentell, president of Lake Forest Open Lands, commended the “extraordinary” architectural design and reduced overall height “which protects important vistas” in Lake Forest, he said

Tom Swarthout of Lake Forest, former alderman and member of the Lake Forest Hospital board of directors, urged the commissioners to approve the plan.

“We need to move this institution forward and make it the finest community hospital anywhere in this country,” Swarthout said.

“The magnitudes of the project is greater than anything Lake Forest has ever seen and will ever see,” Community Development Director Cathy Czerniak said.

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