Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle briefly took the lectern at the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) Tuesday night to welcome presentations on the future of an infamous white elephant structure on the city’s near West Side: the old Cook County Hospital building. “We believe that this building has inherent value,” Preckwinkle said, “and that a thoughtful process like this can help unlock that value.”
CAF asked the public through social media what they wanted to see on the site, which stands vacant in the Illinois Medical District along the Eisenhower Expressway. Apartments, affordable housing, and preservation of the 1914 structure scored highly among the 355 respondents of their informal survey.
Although the building won recognition on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006, its southern wings were demolished in 2008. Its ornate beaux-arts facade remains along the 1800 block of West Harrison Street, retaining a physical link to its storied place in medical history as the country’s first blood bank and a haven for the city’s booming immigrant population.
CAF’s Lynn Osmond called the redevelopment of Cook County Hospital “a win-win opportunity” for the public and potential developers. The team convened by CAF fleshed out two scenarios, which they said could be fully funded by a private developer. “Adaptive reuse will put 526 more people back to work than a new construction option,” Osmond said.
Their plan called for first floor retail and either office or mixed-income residential development in the floors above. The office option totaled 243,000 square feet of office space at about $20 per square foot rent, leaving 31,000 square feet of retail on the first floor. The residential option called for 302 units, (25 percent of which would be reserved for affordable housing) and also kept retail on the first floor.
Another plan by the Chicago Central Area Committee reached out beyond the walls of the hospital itself, proposing a campus-scale redevelopment of the immediate area with new transit hubs, programmed park space and the construction of office and hotel towers nearby.
The County says it intends to issue RFPs for redevelopment of the area in “fall 2014.”