MEDICAL DISTRICT — The Cook County Board approved plans that will see shuttered Cook County Hospital redeveloped.
At a meeting Wednesday, the board approved the private redevelopment agreement, with Commissioner Richard Boykin voting against the measure. Under the plan, a hotel, apartments, shops, restaurants and parking could be developed at the Cook County Hospital site.
As part of the renovation project, a $108.5 million outpatient facility will be built and three outdated buildings will be demolished.
Boykin, who also voted against the plan when it came before the Finance Committee Tuesday, said the county should be focused on stopping gun violence — not on real estate development.
"I just think it's mixed priorities. We're talking about building hotels and condos when we ought to be talking about providing for the safety of individuals in the neighborhoods," he said.
Noting that jobs are sorely needed in the Austin neighborhood he represents, Boykin called the contract's community benefits agreement "a sham."
The redevelopment agreement mandates that 7.2 percent of the construction jobs be filled by local residents, according to county documents.
But Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the project is expected to create more than 5,500 temporary and permanent jobs and requires no capital investment or direct subsidy from the county aside from a shared environmental remediation of the site.
Preckwinkle said she was disappointed that Boykin did not back the plan and the county is funding programs to help youth and ex-cons in need.
"I'm proud to be a strong supporter of our health systems that care for people that may not have any other place to go," she said.
Civic Health Development Group has been selected to redevelop the hospital site. The firm is expected to invest $550 million to $700 million in the project and pay $2 million in annual rent to the county over the term of the lease. Office space, retail shops, additional apartments and a technology center are expected to be developed on the larger site in phases, according to county documents.
Because the developer plans to use federal historic tax credits, the entire building — not just the facade — will be preserved, said Bonnie McDonald, executive director of Landmarks Illinois.
"We're just ecstatic that this is moving forward," McDonald said.
“Seeing the old historic facade of the 1914 hospital building come alive again with housing, hospitality and dining totally transforms the entire IMD [Illinois Medical District] and surrounding institutional and residential communities,” said Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele, who represents the district in which the old hospital is located.
Civic Health Development Group is led by Real Estate Services and is comprised of a number of firms, including Plenary Group, Walsh Investors, Walsh Construction Company, Granite Development, Loop Capital, SOM, Health Management Associates and Legat Architects, according to Cook County records.
Seven development teams were finalists in the request for proposals process.
In October 2014, five civic groups pitched their visions for the Cook County site, which included residential lofts, a hotel and a business incubator.
To honor the hospital's rich legacy, some former hospital employees previously said they want a Cook County Medical Museum incorporated into future developments.
The former hospital at 1835 W. Harrison St. was replaced by John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County. Completed in 1914, the remaining former hospital structure was previously used as the administrative wing and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It closed in 2002.
Cook County Hospital, 1835 W. Harrison St., closed in 2002. [Jeff Dahl]