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Focal Point Believes in Community Health

Blogger: Abbie Clary, Vice President, Central Region Director, Health | Chicago, IL, USA
February 21, 2013

If you believe in an idea and in its importance—no matter how different or new the idea is— don’t be afraid to go for it. This was actually a valuable lesson I learned when I led the pursuit of the Focal Point Community Campus in Southwest Chicago.


When our team was pursuing this seriously ground-breaking project, I cannot tell you how many people said, “Is it really going to happen? There is no way the client will get the property. The city won’t support a not-for-profit, stand-alone, safety-net hospital. This is a waste of time, Abbie!” Hearing these comments from industry professionals and HDR colleagues alike was a bit depressing at times, but it never fazed our pursuit team as we pursued this project. We believed in its mission and knew that we were the team to bring this project to life.

There were several factors that drew me to this project. First was the CEO and his team. His team comes with a combination of thought leadership, moxie, south-side attitude and a little bit of craziness, and of course they all share a vision to provide exactly what their community needs: social wellness. Prior to meeting the CEO, I heard some pretty intense stories about him: apparently, he is very hard if not impossible to meet with, and if you talk about healthcare, he will kick you out of his office. The first time I met him I was literally shaking in my boots, certain I would say the wrong thing, quickly followed by an “off with your head!”

Our challenge was to break through that barrier and prove that we were the right firm for him, the one that believed and had the passion for his ideas and the talent to help pull it off. But most of all, to prove our pursuit of this project wasn’t about making the “sale.” Our interest in and desire for this project was real. Our team was filled with believers.


The CEO's vision for this project is to develop a community campus that will serve residents on the west and southwest sides of Chicago who deserve a chance. A chance not only for excellent healthcare, but a chance to explore their dreams and discover opportunities in a place designed specifically for them. A place that allows them to come together as a community to improve all aspects of their lives. The Focal Point Community Campus includes almost 200,000 SF of retail (literally a mini-mall); community space; a vocational school; a potential charter school; soccer fields and basketball courts; a swimming pool; oh, and also a hospital. It is a campus that truly integrates the needs of these specific neighborhoods in an effort to support overall social wellness.

Making this campus a reality will require a new approach to the business model. The CEO created a development corporation that owns the property, and everyone, including the hospital, leases their space. The LLC, with the profits from for-profit entities, will help to offset the losses from the hospital-side, which will primarily serve Medicaid and uninsured patients. This model has the potential to keep these types of safety-net hospitals financially stable, while also improving people’s lives, holistically, across the country.

So, back to my first meeting with the CEO. The good news is that he didn’t kick us out! He tested us endlessly, and continues to do so, but honesty in our approach and belief in his vision has prevailed. And, of course the amazing design talents of our designers, bringing together an idea that has already won design awards! Click here to see the drawings and video of these designs. And on January 15, 2013, the City of Chicago approved the transfer of the property for $1.00 (see press release), bringing this project closer to reality.


So to all of those naysayers out there, the ones who didn’t believe, start believing. This project is important. Important for neighborhoods that may not experience the level of healthcare that you and I get every day. Important for the future of children and families in realizing what the world has to offer beyond what they know right now. And important for us as we navigate what the future of care delivery will mean for design firms.

Sometimes you just have to believe.

Renderings courtesy of HDR Architecture

Reader Comments (3)

This project embodies the 2017 Strategic Plan's tagline perfectly...  "doing work that matters"   After seeing the video, it makes me proud to work for HDR.  Believing in something larger than yourself will always lead to great things!

Any architecture firm can design a good looking building—but it takes a special firm to design a building that enriches a community and makes the world a better place. Well done, Abbie. I’m excited to see this building come to fruition, and even more excited to see where your “believing” attitude takes our firm in the future.

And talk about an amazing video! Wow. It pulls on the heartstrings and reminds us how important our work is. Beautifully done.


Abbie, thanks for a great post about a terrific project; I think you've got a winning awards submission right here! When FocalPoint is completed, Urban Land Institute Global Awards for Excellence, here we come!!

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