Two years ago, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush lambasted Target Corp. for closing its Morgan Park store, calling the decision a “classic example of persistent disinvestment on the South Side of Chicago.”
On Monday, Rush declared himself “delighted that Target left.”
That’s because, the congressman said, the retailer’s abrupt departure from the community paved the way for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois to take over the 130,000-square-foot building, which formally reopened Monday as a Blue Door Neighborhood Center.
“Target had cheap goods,” said Rush. “This center is dedicated to the health of our neighborhood.”
The center, at the juncture of 119th Street and the I-57 expressway, will focus on preventative care, offering wellness and fitness classes, and connecting neighbors to resources related to housing, transportation and food security. The no-cost services will be available to all residents, not just members of the BCBS network.
“Our Blue Door Neighborhood Centers are spaces for people to learn, connect and focus on their whole person health — which includes tackling the physical, mental, environmental and social factors that can impact wellbeing,” said Steve Hamman, president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, in a statement.
The first Blue Door Neighborhood Center opened in Pullman in spring 2019. Morgan Park is the second, and a third is expected to open in Little Village later this fall. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, programming is being offered virtually via web-based classes.
The multipurpose Morgan Park location will also eventually be home to more than 500 BCBS employees, including customer service positions. More than 100 employees have already been hired, the majority of them coming from Morgan Park and surrounding neighborhoods such as Blue Island, Auburn Gresham, Washington Heights and West Pullman, according to Maurice Smith, president and CEO of Health Care Service Corporation, parent company of BCBS.