CHICAGO - A series of bond-financed hospital projects advanced this week after winning approval from an Illinois regulatory board, paving the way for construction of a new $1 billion children's hospital in downtown Chicago and a pioneering $160 million nuclear cancer treatment center on the west side of the city.

The Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board's approval Tuesday removed the last regulatory hurdle for Children's Memorial Hospital to move ahead with its $1 billion, 288-bed replacement hospital to be built on the campus of Northwest University's Feinberg School of Medicine and Prentice Women's Hospital in downtown Chicago.

The hospital plans to sell $430 million of debt this spring through the Illinois Finance Authority as the first leg of the financing. The project is being financed with the bond proceeds, $346 million of cash, and $248 million of donations.

Goldman, Sachs& Co. and Morgan Stanley are underwriters on the transaction. Kaufman, Hall & Associates Inc. is financial adviser, and Jones Day will be bond counsel. Groundbreaking is set for spring and the facility would open in 2012.

The planning board administers the state's certificate of need program and any major hospital construction projects require a CON before they can proceed.

The board also okayed a plan by Dekalb-based Northern Illinois University to build a $160 million cancer treatment center in West Chicago that will be one of only five such treatment centers in the county. The university will sell bonds to finance much of the project.

NIU has said it would build the hospital, to be called Northern Illinois Proton Treatment and Research Center LLC., within two years and that it would treat up to 1,500 patients a year with a heavy focus on research.

Elmhurst Memorial Healthcarewon approval to begin construction of a new 259-bed $450 million hospital. The new hospital will be part of a five-acre campus located in suburban Elmhurst that is expected to be ready for operation by 2011. Elmhurst officials also plan to build two medical office buildings on the campus, pending approval from the health facilities board. Financing details were not immediately available.

The board also approved an $81 million expansion project submitted by suburban Edward Health Services Corp. The project is the first phase of a larger $200 million renovation and expansion of Edward's hospital based in Naperville.

The expansion and renovation project will be financed with a mix of tax-exempt bonds and cash, though the hospital finance team has not decided on final figures, said Brian Davis, Edwards' vice president for government relations.

"This is a multi-year, very complex Naperville makeover, and the approval will allow us to continue to be one of the largest birthing centers in Illinois," Davis said.

The planning board has twice rejected a separate proposal by Edwards to build a new $210 million hospital in the southwest suburb of Plainfield. Proponents of the hospital are hopeful that a recent change in the certificate of need law will result in approval of the plan later this year.

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