With shoppers visiting brick-and-mortar stores less and less, the new Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSI) facility set to open next year in Morgan Park offers hope and economic stability.
The company will take over a site at 11840 S. Marshfield Ave., in the Marshfield Plaza, that Target vacated early this year.
At a groundbreaking on Nov. 6, officials said it will provide resources such as free health and wellness classes and offer 550 new jobs.
The center is expected to open in mid-2020.
Officials said it will include a Blue Door Neighborhood Center, where services will include health literacy and education classes, information on how to better use health insurance, and connections to other resources.
The first such center opened in the Pullman neighborhood in April.
Visitors do not have to be BCBSI members to use the centers.
The Marshfield Plaza also suffered a blow when a Marshalls store closed in January. However, an Old Navy opened in the shopping center in November 2018—just after Target officials announced their store was closing—providing hope that the plaza can still be economically viable.
BCBSI’s parent company, Health Care Service Corp., reportedly made profits of $4.1 billion last year, over three times more than the year before. The increase was sparked by $1.7 billion the company got back due to tax changes made by the federal government.
A spokesperson also said an increase in customers boosted profits.
BCBSI is the largest insurer in the state, reportedly earning a 64-percent share of the market.
For now, BCBSI appears to be re-investing some of its money by building the new centers.
The new facilities should be encouraging to local residents, who don’t have to worry about whether a new retail store will draw enough customers.
At the groundbreaking, Mayor Lori Lightfoot discussed making businesses that utilize tax increment financing (TIF) funds from the city—such as Target—agree to stay open at a site for a specified period of time. That proposal should also encourage consumers, who wouldn’t have to watch their dollars essentially be stolen by big-box stores who then vacate the premises.
The Marshfield Plaza, which opened in 2010, has potential. Target was supposed to be an anchor store but had just become a vacant building. BCBSI can fill that void.