EDGEWATER — Resident Lisa Hand and her neighbors have, for more than a decade, put up with the deteriorating and unsightly Edgewater Medical Center.
Now they say the building hasn't been properly maintained in recent months and had gone from being an "eyesore to an immediate danger."
And, after city inspectors noted numerous violations on Sunday, the local alderman said the city was preparing to take the hospital's estate to building court.
"I don’t let my kids walk over there; it’s starting to crumble," said Hand, the president of the West Edgewater Area Residents association.
Hand said the site, a collection of several tall buildings and intersected by alleys at 5700 N. Ashland Ave., has not been secure the past few months as fresh graffiti has popped up in some of the windows.
Hand and her neighbors also have taken photos of broken windows and doorways — where people might have been able to enter the hospital — and sent them to the alderman and the Department of Buildings.
On Sunday, city inspectors noted several violations, including the lack of a security guard during nighttime hours and a failure to keep the building in a "safe condition so it does not constitute actual and imminent danger to public," according to city records.
"Premises now dangerous as vacant and open, uncompleted and abandoned, or vacant and boarded," the inspection report notes.
Scott Mendeloff, the attorney for the estate's owner, European creditor Dexia, would not comment on the inspection when reached by phone.
He did say, however, that there was "no change" in the way the property had been managed before the recent complaints.
"I don’t think there’s security issues. There was one incident, and it was dealt with," he said, declining to elaborate what that issue was.
Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th) said the city was prepping to take the hospital's estate to building court over the violations.
"We’re staying on top of it, but I agree with her assessment," O'Connor said Tuesday, referring to Hand's comments. "The people that control the property have indicated their money is less and less to maintain the site and keep it secure. We can’t have it where the building is unsafe."
For more than a decade, O'Connor and community residents have been working to get the building demolished and land redeveloped.
Since 2009, O'Connor and Waveland Partners, which was hired by Dexia, have worked to market a redevelopment of the property.
O'Connor told dozens of community members in February 2013 that Waveland Partners and his office had decided on an extensive planned development that included the apartment building with street-level retail, 19 single-family homes along Edgewater Avenue and a large park, to be managed by either a neighborhood association or the Chicago Park District.
The one thing missing was a developer to actually pay for the project.
O'Connor said he was meeting this week with the city and Waveland Partners to discuss the development.
Waveland Partners "indicated to us a few weeks ago they were close to a development [agreement] with an entity that could do a vertical development with greenspace and single-family homes," O'Connor said.
If that deal doesn't pan out, he said, at least two other "entities" are interested in developing the site into only single-family homes, a scaled-back proposal that first surfaced in January.
He said frustration in the community grows with each day the former hospital languishes.
Hand said Dexia is holding out for a more lucrative development offer at the expense of the neighborhood.
"We feel that Waveland has sat on this property and let it deteriorate," Hand said. "Somebody could be killed or hurt while they’re waiting to make a buck off this thing."
Resident Maurine Berens, an attorney, said she remembers when the "lively" hospital grounds, still accepting patients, bustled with activity.
It was 16 years ago when she moved Hollywood Avenue with her 4-month-old son, who used to watch the ambulances rush by and a helicopter land and take off from the roof of the hospital.
But soon after, the hospital closed and former owner Peter Rogan went bankrupt. He was eventually indicted on charges he didn't pay a court-ordered judgment of $188 million to creditors.
Since then, Berens said, the site has suffered a "slow degradation."
"No one ever expected that this kind of situation would be in this neighborhood," she said. "The length of time has been exacerbating, along with the condition of the building and the knowledge that we've been complaining over the years and nothing has been done."
Standing on her block on a gusty spring day this week, Berens looked toward Ashland Avenue and questioned whether she would have even bought a house on the block knowing what was to come of the hospital grounds.