Friend Health

A view of the shuttered Cosmo Beauty store on the northwest corner of E. 63rd St. and S. Cottage Grove Ave. in Woodlawn, which is to be demolished for the construction of Friend Health’s flagship health center. Friend Health, formerly known as Friend Family Health, has seven locations across the city (two of which are temporarily closed), including its current flagship center at 800 E. 55th Street.

The health center development planned for the intersection of 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue was approved by the city’s Community Development Commission (CDC) yesterday, after Woodlawn residents voted to fund the development last week. 

The project is being put together by Friend Health, a low-income health provider that serves uninsured and undocumented people, and consulting partner DL3 Realty. The pair are asking for $8 million in funds — a little under a fifth of the development’s $37.5 million price tag — from the Woodlawn Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district.

With the exception of a couple who abstained, the CDC members at Tuesday’s meeting all voted yes on the project, which will now move on to City Council. 

In this case, the development also went through Ald. Jeanette Taylor’s (20th) ward-specific process, which requires people living in the community area to approve the project before she lends it her support. 

“While I did have some reservations about the amount of TIF dollars this project is asking for, my community voted to have this and my community votes to make the decision,” Taylor said at Tuesday’s CDC meeting, noting that she herself has used Friend Health in the past. “I look forward to working with them to make sure folks in our community have access to the job and the space.” 

The development, set to become Friend Health’s new headquarters, will consist of two adjacent buildings on the northwest corner of the intersection at 63rd and Cottage Grove. 

The larger building is a 45,000-square-foot flagship medical center that will expand the organization’s family medicine and acute care services, with an administrative building containing a community center and retail space to be constructed immediately to the west. 

Sabrina Moore, Friend Health’s Chief Financial Officer, said that the project would increase the number of patients the organization served annually from 40,000 to between 60,000-70,000 people. 

Both buildings are scheduled to open in 2022. The project is projected to create 43 new jobs, as well as a number of other jobs transferred from existing locations. 

At the CDC meeting, Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox praised Friend Health and DL3 for the project. 

“Very often, it takes a larger public subsidy to make something like this happen,” he said. “And the multiplier effect of 8 million to produce a $37 million investment is something that I hope will be the model for other developments on the South Side and West Side. I just wanted to put this in context, because there's something exemplary going on here.” 

“You have a African American-owned commercial real estate developer who has done extraordinary work on the South Side leading this effort. It is being anchored by Friend Health, a proven health care provider on the South Side,” Cox continued. “The building was designed by an African American-owned design company in Oakland. And it's being constructed by an African American contractor. We couldn't hope for a better launch for the continued development of Woodlawn.”

Editor

Christian Belanger graduated from the University of Chicago in 2017. He has previously written for South Side Weekly, Chicago magazine and the Chicago Reader.

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