Park it here: UCMC to get new lot

Medical center’s new parking lot will reduce traffic

By Nicholas Rouse

Administrators presented a proposal for a new campus parking structure at a community meeting Wednesday evening at the Cummings Life Science Center.

Officials from the University’s Office for Civic Engagement outlined a plan for a parking garage that would serve the Center for Care and Discovery hospital, due to open in February. The proposed structure would be located near 57th Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue. The plan takes the form of an amendment to Institutional Planned Development 43 (PD43), a city zoning document that controls how the University can use its land.

The new structure encompasses 1,800 parking spaces as well as a 60,000 square feet ground floor that will not be used for parking.

The University Medical Center’s (UCMC) current garage of 1,400 spaces does not fulfill the needs of the facility, said Bill Buffman, the president of Facilities, Design, and Construction for the UCMC. The current solution is the University’s valet parking program that, with 67 employees, is the largest in Chicago. UCMC does not anticipate staffing changes necessitated by the new structure.

Eric Russell, a manager with traffic consulting firm KLOA, Inc., explained that the new garage would reduce traffic inside the medical center campus by redirecting cars around Cottage Grove and South Maryland Avenues. Currently, UCMC’s website advises patients to “add 30 minutes to travel time to allow for traffic in the garage” and recommends valet parking.

Not only will the structure mitigate traffic flow, the design will also focus on “making for a good patient experience,” Huffman said. To that end, the parking spaces will be two feet wider than typical spaces and will not be arranged diagonally in order to maximize space. In addition, a second-floor pedestrian bridge will connect the garage to the UCMC, and the overall design of the garage will separate incoming traffic from patient entrances and exits.

Older, vacated houses in the immediate vicinity will be demolished during construction to create a staging area before being converted to green space after the construction ends. However, four privately owned buildings will remain in the area.

During the community discussion that followed the presentation, Cecilia Butler, president of the Washington Park Advisory Council, asked if visitors to Washington Park would be able to utilize the parking garage free of charge.

“The target population for numbers and sizing […] has been based on patient population,” he said. However, he indicated that he would consider making the garage available for special events.

The University plans to file the amendment in early December.