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From Convent To Cancer Center: Bear Construction Transforms Chicago Space Into State-Of-The-Art Treatment Facility


As healthcare demand grows due to the aging American population, developers are looking at creative ways to transform existing spaces into new treatment centers.

A former convent for the Sisters of The Holy Family of Nazareth in Chicago’s West Side was renovated in 2016, becoming the cutting-edge Center for Cancer and Specialty Care at Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center. Thanks to a donation from the Sisters to Presence Health, the center can diagnose and treat cancer in the same building.

Presence Health's renovation called for both new construction and retrofitting old spaces, like the church, for patient use. As is the case with newer medical technology, the services determined structural needs, including housing a new linear accelerator. An X-ray machine that can attack tumors from all regions of the body, the powerful device necessitated building a 2 million-pound concrete vault.


The construction requirements ultimately led Presence Health to bring on Bear Construction as the general contractor. A company with a proven record in healthcare construction throughout Chicago, Bear had the expertise to handle specialized hospital systems and to build spaces that keep out dust, noise and infection.

This time lapse, which speeds through nearly a year’s worth of construction, fully displays the magnitude of the convent’s overhaul. Bear cleared a large, square space in a former wing of the building and built the vault up through the roof. The existing chapel added another floor, new roofing and a brick exterior, turning the facility into a larger cohesive space. By December 2016, the center had its new name mounted above the main entrance: Center for Cancer and Specialty Care.


In addition to cutting-edge technology, other parts of the facility will offer resources like wig fittings, makeup lessons and support groups.

With a grand opening scheduled for February, Presence Health estimates it will treat about 5,000 patients at the center within the first year, to combat the local community’s projected 18% increase in cancer diagnoses over the next decade.

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