Christie Clinic leaving downtown Champaign

CHAMPAIGN – After 77 years in the heart of downtown Champaign, Christie Clinic is making plans to move to the northwest side of the city.

Christie officials planned to announce today that The Atkins Group will buy all the clinic's downtown Champaign properties and develop a new Christie Clinic campus just north of the junction of Interstates 74 and 57.

The Atkins Group says it plans to redevelop the downtown sites after the clinic moves out. Construction on the new clinic is set to begin this fall and be completed by spring 2008.

Christie Clinic officials have been pondering such a move for many months, even while the clinic was completing the construction of a brand new radiation oncology center that opened recently on one corner of the downtown clinic's parking lot.

Christie's chief executive Alan Gleghorn said the main part of the cancer center, the radiation vault, can be moved to the new site, but part of the new building will have to be left behind.

Gleghorn said Christie has outgrown its space downtown, and has nowhere to add more parking, more doctors and more services that are in demand by patients.

The clinic's new 25-acre campus near the interstates will provide the space – and it will be handier for a growing number of Christie Clinic patients that are coming from outside Champaign-Urbana, Gleghorn said.

"That site may feel a long ways from downtown, but it's not so far up there," he added.

The relocation of the clinic will be a joint venture between The Atkins Group and Christie Clinic, in which the new clinic campus will be a centerpiece of a larger Atkins project called Clearview.

Still under discussion with city planners, Clearview is going to open up 700 acres for new homes and commercial buildings, according to Mark Dixon, director of real estate for The Atkins Group.

Christie Clinic's new site will provide the clinic terrific exposure from the interstates, Dixon said.

"We're absolutely thrilled to have this opportunity," he added. "I think this will be a new regional medical presence for our community."

Many details remain to be worked out, among them the total cost of the clinic project and whether Atkins or Christie will own the clinic land and building, Dixon and Gleghorn said.

Another big detail to be worked out with the city: Dixon said the Clearview development will require major infrastructure work, including a western extension of Olympian Drive and a new loop road south of Olympian to provide access to the new clinic.

Dixon said The Atkins Group is focusing first on getting Clearview under construction, with the medical campus built first and new houses starting either by next summer or summer 2008.

"It's a beautiful area, some of the higher ground that we have in Champaign. It has some fantastic opportunities for housing," he added.

Once Clearview is well under way, the Atkins Group will turn its attention to the Christie properties downtown, Dixon said. In addition to the main clinic at 101 W. University Ave. and the clinic's administrative building on White Street and both their parking lots, Atkins will be buying two off-site parking lots that Christie uses for its employees.

"We're looking at mixed uses downtown – residential, office and retail – but there are some other things we're interested in," Dixon said. "It's a dynamic area. Our downtown has come a long way in the last 10 years."

Dixon said The Atkins Group intends to make the redevelopment of the Christie properties an anchor for the south end of the downtown, just as the new One Main complex of stores, restaurants, condominiums and offices has become a focus for the north side, Dixon said.

"What we do on the south end could be equally vibrant," he added.

Craig Rost, deputy city manager for development, said the city is excited about the prospects for both Christie clinic's new location and the redevelopment of its current properties.

Christie's departure will remove more than 1,100 people from the downtown vicinity per day – based on 475 employees and an average 650 patient visits a day – but Rost views that as a temporary gap that will ultimately be filled by people in the Atkins developments.

"I think this is a really positive thing for Christie," Rost said. "Christie growing is important for us. "It's a major step in the northwest growth development area. It certainly is a potential for growth downtown. From our point of view, this is a great situation."

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