Dr. McKinney presented the current initiatives, also known as her 5-point plan, for the IMD which is to: Raise the profile of the IMD, Reinvigorate the IMD, Re-position the IMD, Explore the Medical Tourism industry, and Create an Emergency Preparedness Plan.
For raising the profile of the IMD, with the help of Remedy Chicago, they are developing a strategy around identifying and aligning their vision, culture and image. Dr. McKinney states the goal is” to create a vibrant, thriving urban medical district.” The IMD held a Brand Summit with elected officials, healthcare executives, business leaders and staff. The summit brought forth a full conversation about the IMD’s Brand, or lack thereof and what is needed in order to rival their national counterparts like the Texas Medical Center, Research Triangle Park, the area around Silicon Valley, and all of the technology companies out there. Dr. McKinney doesn’t shy away from big ideas. She states, “if we don’t go big, what are we doing?”
The IMD worked with the Boston Consulting Group to embark on its first ever strategic plan to reinvigorate the medical district. That plan served the foundation for the master plan that was done back in 2014-2015. Dr. McKinney states, “Our vision essentially is to be a leader in patient care and medical research, utilizing the diversity and unique assets of the District while also driving economic growth.” The original master plan was done in 1997 and no other master planning was done until 2014. All of the four major hospitals are preparing future plans, including the Stronger (Cook County) hospital campus re-design, Expansion of the Malcolm X College, Growth of district stakeholders, the Jane Byrne interchange construction, and CTA Blue Line Modernization. Dr. McKinney stated. “We’re trying to grow and adjust to accommodate all of the development that is happening." She further stated, “We’ve engaged many people around that master plan ensuring that our efforts align with what the city, and the business community seeks to do here.”
Some highlights of the master plan include encouraging urban style development, which is appropriate for the context, with a more diverse mix of uses. Dr. McKinney indicated “Right now, we’re heavily hospitals, and technology companies, and businesses but there are no real amenities and resources in the district. The district is looking at building hotels, young professional houses and infusing retail and restaurant amenities into the district.” Dr. McKinney mentioned a report published by the Brookings Institute, referring to concentrations within these cities as “innovation districts”. A goal of the IMD is to do more to support transit use and walkability. “To decrease the heavy dependence on vehicular traffic in the district, making the IMD more pedestrian friendly and creating a sense of place and identity. In order to facilitate that, the District needs to adjust regulations relating to density in order to stimulate development and reinforce the urban context.” Dr. McKinney emphasized, “The heaviest use of land right now in the medical district is parking—and that’s a problem and we want to change that.”
The IMD’s vision for the future consists of capitalizing on the strategic location of the IMD, foster innovation, research and collaboration as well as support the growth and expansion needs and desires of our 4 anchor institutions, and building a strong sense of community.
“We are about the only developed urban medical district that is not land locked and that creates a unique opportunity for us. We have just under 30 acres of raw undeveloped land in the medical district. When you look at other areas such as the Texas Medical Center and the Boston Longwood campus, they’re completely land locked and there is limited opportunity for new business and new development. Because we do have so much land available for development, it creates a unique opportunity for us.”
Globally, medical tourism is a $60-Billion industry per year. Most of the medical tourism market in the US goes to Jacksonville, FL and Houston, TX, where the Texas Medical Center is located. “There is no reason why the IMD cannot be one of those locations”, Dr. McKinney declared. As Dr. McKinney compares data with the Cleveland Clinic, Research Triangle Park (RTP), and Mayo Clinic, she noted that the IMD sees 50,000 patients per day. That’s in addition to the 29,730 employees that are coming into the medical district every day. The IMD medical tourism goals include, continuing to work toward revitalizing the Chicago Technology Park/Biotech sector, promoting the specialized care that currently exists, and identifying new ways for partners to collaborate in a manner that will attract more of the medical tourism dollars and patients here to Chicago.
The partners in the IMD not only among the hospital, the FBI Chicago Headquarters, Illinois State Police Forensics Science Center and the American Red Cross, could be doing more to ensure that private and non-profit partners work more closely with the city’s public safety community to ensure coordinated and rapid responses to Chicago's risk for terrorism and major disasters. The clear potential exists to leverage the assets we have there to respond to emergencies to make our city a much safer place to live.” As Dr. McKinney continued, her goals for city’s safety include having the partners assess their individual preparedness plans, bring partners together to discuss the district wide emergency response capabilities, and create a more unified preparedness plan.
In answering questions, Dr. McKinney highlighted the asset of the CTA Blue Line stop on the IMD’s campus. “We understand the blue line is a significant mechanism in which people travel to the IMD, but we've identified some safety concerns around that blue line stop particularly in the winter.” The IMD stop on the Blue line runs along the I-290 expressway and there are large ramps where you can exit both at Damen and Paulina. Dr. McKinney noted, “Neither ramps are ADA accessible. The snow plows come through and push the snow on the sidewalks and forcing pedestrians to walk in the street. That is creating a challenge for people to enter the medical district from that blue line stop.” Dr. McKinney indicated the IMD is currently working with CTA as they have a rehab of that blue line stop plan to make it easily accessible for people catching the blue line to access the resources in the IMD.
In reference to the CCAC Cook County Charrette Report, the construction of a pedestrian bridge over the I-290 expressway has generated a lot of interest and discussion. Dr. McKinney indicated, “With Rush Medical Center expanding over the north side of the expressway, the new Malcolm X College facility creating new healthcare programs for city colleges, this is a great idea. This is also an ideal location for jobs for students after they graduate. This will also spur retail, restaurant and other developments. On the political side, many elected officials are interested in ensuring their constituents that reside on the north side have the opportunity to access those amenities.”
As always, funding is a challenge. Dr. McKinney is proud to report that, “The IMDC is entirely self-sustained and funded through all of the ground leases, and rents on the properties that they own which are leased out by institutions that reside in the medical district.” She also stated, "We are also exploring public private partnerships to do additional developments in the district. We have zero state funding."