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Children's Hospital Buildings To Face Wrecking Ball in April

By Mina Bloom | March 3, 2016 6:20am
 Though crews will begin abatement work this week, the first building won't come down until April. The site has been vacant since 2012.
Though crews will begin abatement work this week, the first building won't come down until April. The site has been vacant since 2012.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

LINCOLN PARK — Get ready for some major construction work at the massive Children's Memorial Hospital site.

The six-phase demolition process is set to begin within the next few days, Dan McCaffery, CEO and chairman of McCaffery Interests, said at a preconstruction meeting Tuesday evening at Lincoln Park High School, 2001 N. Orchard St. 

That doesn't mean the concrete buildings are coming down this week.

Beginning this week, crews will focus on environmental abatement inside the first building, getting rid of hazardous materials including asbestos. In April, scaffolding and screening will go up before the first building faces the wrecking ball.

RELATED: Children's Memorial Redevelopment Finally Underway as Deal Closes

In all, the demolition process, including environmental abatement, is expected to last through November. Construction will begin in December and last about 2½ years.

The structures that are staying include the  flatiron building that used to house the White Elephant resale shop, the parking garage across the street and the red brick power plant building.

During construction, there will be a recycling plant in the middle of the job site that will allow crews to reuse some building materials. Joe Antunovich, of Antunovich Associates — one of the architects on the project — said it will save six months of construction time and eliminate up to 15,000 truck trips because crews won't have to haul materials out of the job site, but there will be more dust and noise.

The recycling plant, which will run frequently for at least four months, will be as loud as a passing car, Antunovich said.

Throughout the demolition process, there will be sidewalk closures and parking restrictions (which will be posted to the project's website in advance), but no changes to drop off or pick up schedules at nearby schools. 

Crews are scheduled to work Mondays-Saturdays beginning at 8 a.m. and end no later than 6 p.m. barring special circumstances. They are required to park in the existing parking garage.

Beginning in 2017, crews will begin transforming the historic Nellie Black building into a senior housing complex under the name Belmont Village. McCaffery, along with its development partner Houston-based Hines, expect to finish the complex at the end of 2018. It will be a seven-story building with 150 assisted-living units spanning about 120,000 square feet, according to a Belmont Village official.

At the meeting, Ward Miller, executive director for Preservation Chicago, said he would've liked to see the building, which was built in 1882, preserved. He also mentioned that he'd like to see the Martha Wilson Memorial Pavilion saved. Both made the organization's "most endangered buildings" list this year.

McCaffery said his team spent time studying the Nellie Black building and ultimately determined the building has to come down due to its raised entrance. But his team plans to incorporate some of the original elements in the design. He did not offer specific insight on the Martha Wilson building.

"That's not preservation," Miller said. "I want to encourage that [preservation] discussion to continue."

If all goes according to plan, the entire project will be complete in about 3½ years, McCaffery said. The plans include two apartment buildings with 540 units, about 160,000 square feet of retail and up to 60 condominiums.

In the coming weeks, the development team will continue to meet with adjacent property owners to install devices that will measure potential vibration from the ongoing construction. 

A few residents at the meeting expressed concerns over the rat control plan. Typically, rats are an issue at any excavation site. With the site being so large, residents fear an "outpouring" of rats. 

In response, McCaffery simply said, "It's going to be awful."

Though the development team has an abatement plan in place that includes rat traps, McCaffery said it's impossible to predict what the real impact will be. So he urged residents to contact the team with any concerns so they can address them quickly and efficiently. 

"If it gets real bad, we will have to double or triple our efforts," he added.

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