Decoding Design

Focal Point intends to reinvent the hospital

Posting in Cities

Would you go to your local hospital to get your shopping done? How about for a pick-up basketball game? Focal Point Community Campus wants to be a community hub -- but not just because it's a healthcare facility.

It seems safe to say that just about nobody likes a hospital. Sure, maternity wards are generally happy places, but those little bundles of joy are quickly overshadowed by the anxiety and grief that fills most rooms and hallways. But what if a hospital was built, from the ground up, to be a different kind of place? To be not just a dichotomy of emotional extremes, but an everyday fixture in a community's life?

That's the vision for Focal Point Community Campus, a multi-use healthcare facility being developed on Chicago's southwest side by Saint Anthony Ministries, the parent company of the city's St. Anthony Hospital. If it comes to fruition, the campus will be constructed on an 11-acre former trade school and will include retail space, eateries, sports fields, an Olympic-sized pool, education opportunities, arts and entertainment.

Members of the nearby communities, which include the Little Village, Pilsen, North Lawndale, Brighton Park, Back of the Yards and Archer Heights neighborhoods, would conceivably find themselves at Focal Point multiple times each week for many different reasons, but not because they're ill.

One of the focal points of Focal Point will be to address health through preventative health maintenance. The hope is that the community will take advantage of offerings such as parenting classes, diabetes education, recreation and wellness programs in order to keep individuals coming back to the campus all the time -- but not as a patient.

But the most novel element, perhaps, is the business model. “What makes this idea unique is that once this campus is built, the income from its for-profit elements will supplement the financial needs of the not-for-profit elements," said Guy Medaglia, Saint Anthony Ministries president and chief executive officer, in a statement.

He says this will be a "much-needed solution to deliver medical, education and other services to a community that continues to be under resourced.”

Basically, the rental income generated by retailers, day care, the parking garage and even outpatient clinic will be invested into healthcare programs. If this concept works, the new model could be replicated in hospitals -- or rather, community campuses -- in disadvantaged areas everywhere.

“For someone to have a shot at a healthy life, you have to be able to buy healthy food, feed your mind with education, nurture your creativity through the arts, have a place to send your kids to keep them off the streets, and have a job to support your family,” said Jim Sifuentes, vice president of mission and community development for Saint Anthony Hospital, in a statement.

But first, the place needs to be built. That could bring 2,100 much-needed jobs to Chicago, but it will also cost upwards of $250 million. Saint Anthony Ministries is seeking funding from the government, other public funding sources, as well as tax credits and other sources.


Images: Saint Anthony Ministries

Mary Catherine O'Connor

Contributing Writer

Mary Catherine O'Connor has written for Outside, Fast Company, Wired.com, Smithsonian.com, Entrepreneur, Earth2Tech.com, Earth Island Journal and The Magazine. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure