Construction on breast cancer center could start sooner than planned

Construction on breast cancer center could start sooner than planned

URBANA – Construction will start sooner than planned on the Carle Foundation's new breast cancer research and treatment center, provided a state board approves the project next month.

Fundraising is still far from finished, but Carle officials say they now hope to break ground in April on the center – which has been named the Mills Breast Cancer Institute – at the southeast corner of University Avenue and Orchard Street in Urbana.

Initially, plans were to wait until next fall to start building.

"The fundraising is going quite well," said Robert Driver, the Carle Foundation's vice president of development.

The cornerstone of the fundraising campaign has been a $10 million gift from local couple Linda and Doug Mills this past summer.

Since then, Carle has received $353,000 in current and deferred gifts for the project and is working with several other potential donors, Driver said.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, also has helped Carle secure a $100,000 federal appropriation for the project. The grant money will be used to buy equipment for the center, according to Cathy Emanuel, Carle's vice president of business development and strategy.

Driver said Carle hopes to raise between $2 million and $3 million more from donors to help pay for the center, the total cost of which is expected to run in the $30 million range.

"Every dollar that comes in will help us provide higher level patient amenities and aesthetics as well," he added.

Driver said Carle also expects to identify some opportunities shortly to donors to have parts of the new center named after them.

Emanuel said Carle will borrow to cover the balance of the project not covered by private donations.

Meanwhile, other steps are under way to get the new facility developed.

Carle has filed a "certificate of need" application with the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, which must find there's a need for such a project before Carle can start building it. Driver said the board will consider Carle's application in January.

Carle is also in the midst of a national search for a director for the new center, and hopes to secure a major donor to fund the position as a special research chair, Driver said.

He and Emanuel say the director will be a doctor who will run the center, teach and bring in a team of researchers.

Emanuel said the new center will be a 60,000-square-foot building that will focus on diagnosis, treatment and research done in cooperation with the University of Illinois and Carle Clinic.

It will also offer several other services for breast cancer patients, such as a social worker, patient education services, and places to buy wigs and prosthetics.

"We're trying to make it one-stop shopping," Emanuel said.