HUNTLEY – Centegra Health System will look to break ground in March on its $200 million Huntley hospital after officials cleared the final village planning hurdle on Thursday.
Centegra executives spent all year working their way through the planning process and encountered some delays, primarily from a recently decided legal battle with their competitors. The fight over the project will continue into 2014 after Centegra's competitors filed an appeal to the decision.
But on Thursday, Centegra officials were focused on moving forward with construction. The Village Board unanimously approved the final design to build a five-story, 128-bed hospital within Centegra's existing Huntley health campus, near Haligus and Algonquin roads.
"It's been three years to get to this point," Centegra Chief Executive Michael Eesley said. "It's going to be a one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art facility, and I think people will really appreciate it in this community."
The 375,000-square-foot hospital will be Centegra's third in the county and serve the growing area of southern McHenry and northern Kane counties. The $200 million project marks the largest infrastructure investment in Huntley's history.
The final designs include plans for an eight-bed intensive care unit, full service emergency department, a dedicated women's center and a helipad for transporting critically injured patients.
The plans were relatively unchanged from earlier this summer, when Centegra executives presented the board with an initial design.
"It looks fantastic," Trustee Nick Hanson said.
The planning process did not come easily for Centegra. A lawsuit from competitors Mercy Health System, Advocate and Sherman Health ultimately delayed Centegra's original construction start, planned for late October.
The lawsuit sought to overturn a state board's July 2012 approval of the Huntley project. The state's health facilities board had previously rejected Centegra's plan twice.
The three competitors contended the state approval should be reversed because Department of Public Health staff concluded the proposal did not meet three of the state’s 20 standards.
But a Will County judge sided last month with the state board that the project will meet a future need in an area continuing to grow.
Centegra General Counsel Aaron Shepley informed the Huntley board that both Mercy and Advocate, which merged this summer with Sherman, are seeking an appeal to the judge's decision.
The appeal process could last six to 10 months, but it shouldn't derail Centegra's construction plans, Shepley said.
"The strength of the [judge's] opinion will carry the day," he said. "It's just a process that we have to go through."
Although construction likely will begin in March, the public won't have a chance to celebrate the project until the summer.
Eesley said they wanted to wait until the warmer months to do a ceremony that is typically reserved for when construction crews break ground on a project.
"We wanted to wait until it was a little warmer and make it more of a community-based ceremony rather than just have the dignitaries," he said.