Abandoned Cook County Hospital Ripe for Conversion to MOB

A gut rehab of the old Cook County Hospital will turn the historic building into medical offices.  The vacant 1914 Beaux Art Cook County Hospital will get a second life now that the Cook County Board has voted to spend $108 million to renovate the structure and convert it into medical offices. Real estate analysts Jones Lang LaSalle envision the county serving as developer while the Cook County Health and Hospitals System physicians would occupy space in the renovated building. The gut rehab could be completed as early as 2012 if construction begins this year.

Although the hospital at 1835 West Harrison Street has become rundown since it was replaced by the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital in 2002, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Portions of the structure are wrapped in metal straps to keep the deteriorating stone and brick façade from falling.  Historic preservationists have proposed establishing a tax-increment financing (TIF) district to fund the conversion to medical offices.  Engineers have determined that the hospital’s steel and concrete structure is sound.

Landmarks Illinois points out that historic hospitals have been converted to new uses in other cities.  An example is the Amazon.com headquarters in Seattle, which previously was an Art Deco hospital.  The green angle to the conversion is that renovating Cook County Hospital will prevent approximately 900 semi truckloads of demolition waste from ending up in a landfill.

Designed by Cook County architect Paul Gerhardt, the two-block long building “is at once powerful and graceful, its pairs of three-story, fluted Ionic columns anchoring a composition that features all the hallmarks of the Beaux-Art style, from mansard roofs and dormers to sculpted faces of lions and cherubs,” according to Chicago Tribune architectural critic Blair Kamin.  “Put a small museum in the building, conduct tours and you’d have an attraction for archi-tourists on their way to Oak Park to see the wonders of Frank Lloyd Wright.”

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