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Children's Memorial Demolished: Former Patients, Families Say Goodbye

By Mina Bloom | June 7, 2016 2:22pm
 A mom of a former patient mourns and celebrates the building's demolition.
A mom of a former patient mourns and celebrates the building's demolition.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

LINCOLN PARK — Watching the Children's Memorial Hospital buildings come down Tuesday morning was emotional for Bridget Schank.

Back when the hospital was still open in 2010, Children's was the place where her one-year-old son, Jack, was diagnosed with liver disease. It was also the place where she found out her son would live after doctors performed a successful organ transplant.

"It's the source of the most awful time in our life. When 10 doctors walk into your hospital room unexpectedly and tell you that your son is dying, your life changes forever. And then, when you have a successful organ transplant, it's the most joy you've ever experienced," said Schank, whose face was red from crying.

"It's this crazy collision of emotions and memories and I had to be here for it."

The demolition was emotional for Bridget Schank, 39, who spent her darkest and best days there. [All photos DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

Schank drove from her home in suburban Arlington Heights to Lincoln Park early Tuesday with a box of tissues and two beers to raise a glass to the hospital that saved her son. She couldn't get past the second floor of the parking lot across the street being overcome by emotion.

She was crying as she watched from the lot as crews began to gut one of the buildings on Lincoln Avenue, removing hunks of metal and debris — the first step in a long demolition process. According to Schank, the building housed the intensive care unit, where she spent some of the darkest days of her life.

"It's like breaking open this place is freeing all of the memories from all of the families," she said. "It's cathartic."

Schank also set out to document the demolition by taking photos and video for other families who had similar experiences.

"The demolition of this hospital [is] a closing of a chapter for a lot of families, and for us too," she said, beginning to cry.

The six-acre site near the busy intersection of Lincoln Avenue, Halsted Street and Fullerton Avenue has sat vacant since 2012, when the hospital moved to Streeterville.

After four years of community debate, the site is finally being redeveloped into a massive mixed-use project. The $350 million plans include apartment buildings with 540 units, about 160,000 square feet of retail and up to 60 condominiums, as well as a senior housing complex.

The demolition process is expected to last through November. Construction will begin in December and last about 2½ years.

"If you're living on this space, you're pretty lucky. I say this is holy ground," Schank said.

Schank crying as she watches the demolition from a parking lot across the street.

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