Homegrown doctor stirs up vision for ‘very complex’ deal

by Ryan Ori
Originally Appeared in the Peoria Journal Star, June 2008

Illinois Medical Center is expected to open by September.

The opening comes about four years after Children’s Hospital of Illinois first discussed a large expansion project.

Those plans, which necessitated Peoria Surgical Group’s relocation from within OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, came about near the time Dr. Andy Chiou had returned to his hometown to join the thriving surgical group in 2004.

Group practice administrator Stu Patty and several of the group’s physicians — including managing partner Tom Rossi and president Jim DeBord — began extensive legwork in finding a new location. Medical practices had begun moving north to Illinois Route 91.

But based on then-city councilman John Morris’ suggestion to look Downtown, and an inability to take his eye off a piece of land on University of Illinois property along Main Street, Chiou approached then-UICOMP associate dean Dr. Dick Lister. Chiou asked about building on five acres of U of I land.

“There are about (45) doctors who have their money in it, but it was Andy who stirred the vision up,” Morris said. “He deserves a great deal of credit.”

Chiou was pleasantly surprised to hear back quickly from Lister.

The Illinois Medical Center deal was unprecedented in Peoria because it required cooperation of city government, U of I administration and private medical practice — in addition to the support of the city’s two major hospitals located nearby.

Former Caterpillar Inc. chairman Glen Barton, who previously tried to negotiate for construction on the site, also was enlisted.

“We had tried for a number of years to get the University of Illinois to give up some land to first put a cancer treatment center there,” said Barton, who serves with Chiou on the District 150 Foundation board. “Because of the time frame and how long the negotiations took, they opted to go out on Route 91.

“Because that groundwork had been laid, when the conversation got around to building a physician building there we were finally able to push the deal through to a conclusion.”

The U of I agreed to lease the land for 50 years at $1 annually, followed by two 25-year leases at “market value.” A $28.5 million loan will be paid off by about 45 physicians. The city pitched in $4 million, via the Southtown TIF district, for approximately two-thirds of the cost of a parking deck.

Illinois Medical Center agreed to have at least 60 percent of its doctors serve as UICOMP faculty.

After its initial contribution, Peoria will gain about $400,000 annually in property taxes on land previously producing no tax revenue. Through their practices, physicians will bring at least another 200 medical jobs into the building.

“It’s a very, very complex arrangement over there,” Patty said. “People who work in the building actually have to be faculty at the University of Illinois, and things like that. The rules go on and on. There’s a lot of oversight that the dean has on the building.

“There were literally thousands of those issues, and every once in a while one would come up that was a deal-breaker. Somehow, some way, it would get revived. Eventually, it came about. If something’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”

The medical community gains continued growth.

UICOMP plans to add a cancer research center on the other side of its property. Not far from there, St. Francis and Methodist Medical Center are set for major building projects.

“It’s like Dr. Chiou said: As a physician, all he can do is treat one patient at a time,” Patty said. “When you do a building like this, you actually get to make Peoria better maybe 1,000 citizens at a time instead of one at a time.”

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