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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has set in motion a new plan to redevelop the old Cook County Hospital Building that has sat vacant for more than a decade. But various plans for the structure have been floated in previous years. Why does Preckwinkle think this is the one?
The $600 million private project is set to go before the Cook County Board one week from today. Under the plan, construction on the old hospital building would start next year.
Plans call for turning the hospital into a mixed use of hotel, retail and apartments, including a 20 percent affordable housing stock.
The winning bidder was a group made up of MB Real Estate Services and Walsh investors, among others. The group would pay the county $2 million a year for 99 years to lease the land.
The project would come in phases: The first would involve the restoration of the old beaux-arts building into residential, retail and parking. Next, a new technology center would be built to the east, and three brand new hotel, residential and office towers would be built around the site.
Preckwinkle says the booming Medical District is in need of this development.
“We’re going to add not just visitors with the hotels, not just residents with the apartments, but a lot of ground floor retail that will revitalize the Medical District,” Preckwinkle said. “This is a wonderful asset whose potential hasn’t fully been realized. So we hope this will be catalytic in transforming the Illinois Medical District.”
The group Landmarks Illinois, which has in the past had the building on its “most endangered” list, has now removed it.
“I’m confident that this development proposal is the one that is going to work because they have an excellent team of developers,” said the group’s president, Bonnie McDonald. “The lead developer, MB, just restored the Chicago Motor Club Building. They know how to deal with old buildings and to utilize the tax incentives. The time is right because the Illinois Medical District is at a point where the cost per square foot is high enough that they can charge a rate to make the finances work.”
The building is in good condition, according to county officials. They say they only spend a few thousand dollars a year maintaining it. Famously, former County Board President John Stroger called for demolishing it. Even those plans went nowhere.
Preckwinkle also unveiled plans Wednesday to add a new building to the current Stroger Hospital. This would be a $118 million project the county will pay for out of its capital budget, and it will also be introduced to the full board of directors next Wednesday.
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