At a time when remote work and telehealth have many hospital chains looking to unload office space, Northwestern Memorial HealthCare is planning a $39 million medical office building near its hospital in Chicago’s western suburbs.
If Illinois regulators approves the 11-hospital chain’s application for a 50,000-square-foot facility, construction could start in August and be completed by Aug. 30, 2023.
The project includes about 34,000 square feet of physician office space, with room for up to 34 doctors across specialties like allergy, ophthalmology and urology, according to the system’s application. It says the goal is to improve access to chronic disease management and other preventive health services—demand for which continues to increase due to the aging population, technological advances and greater access to health insurance.
Northwestern’s planned expansion comes as some local rivals are shrinking their footprints during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shifted more work and medical care to virtual settings.
Advocate Aurora Health is among hospital chains that have unloaded office space during the pandemic. With about 12,000 of its 75,000 employees working remotely, Advocate vacated some of its non-headquarter offices when leases were up at the end of last year.
It’s shifting to a “remote-first, office hoteling” model for workers in non-clinical roles across departments like finance, accounting and business development, Chief Human Resources Officer Kevin Brady said in an emailed statement.
“As part of the plan, we will continue to regularly evaluate our facilities and assess our real estate footprint,” Brady said. He added that such decisions aren’t an indication of downsizing, “but rather of our ability to reorganize to create a more engaging, collaborative and energizing work environment while offering team members the flexibility they value.”
Similarly, Amita Health told Crain’s Chicago Business in March that “associates’ desire to work remotely and our ability to provide alternate work environments, in turn, requires less physical office space.”
Also in March, Edward-Elmhurst Health said it was reevaluating office space needs at its Warrenville Corporate Center, with the expectation of repurposing some space for other uses. A representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Northwestern’s plan to expand its outpatient footprint has been in the works since before the pandemic. The hospital chain’s project will include about 13,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor, according to the application.
This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain’s Chicago Business.