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Ambitious Redevelopment Plan for the Old Cook County Hospital Breaks Cover

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The multi-phase plan calls for adaptive reuse of the hopital plus new highrise towers

Despite previous redevelopment plans coming up short and some even advocating for its demolition, the historic Cook County Hospital building looks set to receive a new, mixed-use lease on life thanks to an ambitious multi-phase redevelopment plan. While the 102-year-old, Beaux Arts style building with classical stone columns and terracotta detailing is in dire need of rehabilitation, a development team spearheaded by MB Real Estate Services with architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill see the old hospital building and its surrounding 10-acres as an opportunity to bring new energy to the otherwise quiet Illinois Medical District.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the first phase of the plan calls for reuse of the abandoned hospital building which has sat vacant since 2002. The hulking historic structure could house as many as 250 hotel rooms and 150 market-rate and affordable apartment units. The plan will also see the medical and administration offices at 1901 N Harrison and 1900 W Polk will be consolidated in a new structure to be built at nearby Stroger Hospital at the northeast corner of Polk and Damen. The Harrison building will be demolished while the more handsome 1920s brick and limestone building on Polk will be spared for possible reuse later.

The next phase includes the construction of a new research and technology center built along Wood Street at the eastern edge of the site. Attention would then turn to expanding the capacity of the Hospital’s existing parking garage and lining the enlarged structure with new retail, residential, and office spaces. The final phase of the project outlines a pair of mixed-use highrise towers to be constructed just north of the old hospital at opposing ends of Pasteur Park. Open space will remain between the the new towers as to not too badly obstruct the historic building’s detailed facade following its full restoration.

Cook County plans to lease the land and buildings to the development team for $2 million a year. The total cost of the privately-funded project is estimated to be between $550 million and $700 million, though the developers hope to reduce the price tag with historic preservation tax credits. Phase one work on the old hospital building could start next year with the hotel and apartment component opening as early as 2018. The more advanced phases of the mega-project may take between 10 and 15 years to come to fruition.