Chicago’s old Cook County Hospital building could soon be redeveloped after sitting vacant for more than a decade.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced a development agreement Wednesday aimed at turning the more than 100-year-old building into a hotel, apartments and shops as part of an effort that could change the nature of the Illinois Medical District.
"It's a place that has tens of thousands of people who work here or come here on a daily basis," Preckwinkle said. "Still, it's hard to find a coffee shop."
The redevelopment would preserve the facility’s historic exterior, but behind it, developers plan to put in retailers and restaurants, officials said.
"It's a four-phased approach, starting with the redevelopment of Old Cook County Hospital, that is not requiring any funding, any county taxpayer subsidy, for this project at all," said Jessica Caffrey, director of real estate for Cook County.
While the possibility of the $550 million plan coming to fruition remains unclear, Bonnie McDonald, president of Landmarks Illinois, called the plan a “win win.” She said the development team, led by MB Real Estate and numerous other groups, hopes to secure the funding with no cost to taxpayers and would pay rent to the county for the space.
"We've seen development plans come and go for this, and this plan is the most realistic because number one it has a development team that is stellar,” she said. “They've done these projects in the past."
While the plan still needs to be approved by the Cook County Board of Commissioners, the project could begin construction as early as next year and be finished by 2018.
“It's a great reuse for the medical district because we really don't have much hotel space and we need workforce housing for those who study here and work here as well,” McDonald said.
In addition to the old hospital’s redevelopment, a new nine-story administrative and clinic building, dubbed the Central Campus Health Center, will be built by Stroger Hospital, which replaced the old Cook County Hospital. The building would consolidate services from the administrative building on Polk Street, along with the Fantus Health Center and Hektoen Administration Building.
The plan will also include additional parking.
"Building this new ambulatory care facility is more than replacing old buildings,” Preckwinkle said in a statement. “It is a transformative centerpiece for system-wide operational and programmatic reform. It will enable the health system to offer a modern patient experience that is competitive in contemporary healthcare markets for years to come by providing facilities that match the first-rate care already available through the health system.”