Old Cook County Hospital Redevelopment to Begin

After 15 years of advocacy by Preservation Chicago, Landmarks Illinois, and other preservation partners, the vacant and historic Old Cook County Hospital located at 1825 W. Harrison Street will be adaptively reused. On May 25, the development team closed on their financing for the initial redevelopment phase valued at $135 million. Historic tax credits will play an important part of the financing packing for this development.

After 15 years of advocacy by Preservation Chicago, Landmarks Illinois, and other preservation partners, the vacant and historic Old Cook County Hospital located at 1825 W. Harrison Street will be adaptively reused. On May 25, the development team closed on their financing for the initial redevelopment phase valued at $135 million. Historic tax credits will play an important part of the financing packing for this development.
 
“What everyone said can’t be done can finally be done,” said developer John Murphy. “We’re going to turn a dilapidated building into the first phase of what could become a $1 billion project. First up is the existing building, an approximately 345,000 square foot behemoth at 1835 W. Harrison Street. The building is 550 feet long, the rough equivalent of a 50-story skyscraper turned on its side. Once we reset this old building, I think you’ll see explosive development in this area. It will unlock billions of dollars in investments and jobs.” (Ori, Chicago Tribune, 5/27/18)
 
A 99-year lease was awarded on December 31, 2017 to a private development consortium called Civic Health Development Group (CHDG), which is led by Chicago-based developer John T. Murphy and includes Walsh Investors, Murphy Development Group, MB Real Estate, Granite Companies, and Plenary Group. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is the architect, Koo Interiors is the interior designer, and Walsh Construction is the contractor.
 
Developer John Murphy has successful experience adaptively reusing historic buildings including the Art-Deco Chicago Motor Club Building (Chicago 7 2009) into a Hampton Inn and the former office portion of the Oriental Theater into a Cambria Suites.
 
Old Cook County Hospital has been the focus of Preservation Chicago’s advocacy since it was a Chicago 7 Most Endangered Building in both 2003 and 2004, as well as the focus of our preservation partners Landmarks Illinois, and others.  
 
Old Cook County Hospital was designed by Chicago architect Paul Gerhardt who designed many buildings in Chicago including Lane Tech High School. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places which allows the redevelopment project to use millions of dollars of federal historic tax credits. Preservation Chicago strongly encourages the development team to pursue a Chicago Landmark Designation of the former hospital building to take advantage of additional tax benefits and to provide long-term protection.
 
The heavily ornamented Classical Revival style façade includes granite, white glazed terra cotta, cream-colored brick, massive columns and wonderful ornament. At one time it was the largest hospital in the nation, and Old Cook County Hospital has made appearances in movies such as “The Fugitive”, with Harrison Ford, and served as the setting of the long-running hit television show “ER”. Old Cook County Hospital served as an innovator in the medical field and was the site of the nation’s first Blood Bank in 1937 and the nation’s first Trauma Unit in 1966.
 
Located in the heart of the Illinois Medical District, the $135 million dollar redevelopment plan will renovate the historic Old Cook County Hospital building and will include two Hyatt hotels, medical offices, and ground floor retail with food hall and pharmacy.  
 
“With the signing of this lease, we can look forward to restoring this amazing building and its historic architecture. Additionally, the redevelopment of Old County Hospital will unlock tremendous economic potential for the Near West Side and the Illinois Medical District,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. (Sneed, Chicago Tribune, 1/11/18)
 
Preservation Chicago applauds Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the Cook County Board for this important decision. This marks a significant reversal from the Board’s past position and actions. In 1994, the Illinois Medical District, an agency designated by the State of Illinois, decided that the old Cook County Hospital required demolition. No report or study was made public that showed the reasons for the agency to make this determination. 
 
Construction of a new Cook County Hospital called Stroger Hospital followed and opened in 2002. On August 1, 2002, the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted to grant a $2.9 million dollar contract to a consulting firm to plan for the demolition of the old Cook County Hospital. Demolition was expected to cost between $11 and $25 million dollars. The land under the main building was planned to be converted to park space. The rear wings of the main building were demolished in 2008.
 
Although the administration of former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger had approved a $108 million dollar plan to rehab old Cook County Hospital for administrative offices, the incoming administration of Toni Preckwinkle put all capital construction projects on hold shortly after taking office in December, 2010. Then, on April 21, 2011, it was reported that old Cook County would indeed be rehabbed as part of a $683 million multi-year capital improvement campaign. However, during the intervening years and with the building redevelopment stalled, concern has been rising within the preservation community about the fate of this important and beautiful historic building.
 
After a long and complicated advocacy effort, Preservation Chicago is thrilled that old Cook County Hospital will be saved. Additionally, Preservation Chicago is concerned that other historic Cook County owned buildings in the medical district are at risk and would like to see an adaptive reuse for the former Nurse’s Pavilion Building and the old Cook County Blood Bank Building among others.
 
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