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Steele wants county hospital preserved

Friday, August 04, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

For years, the Cook County Board president fought preservationists who were trying to save the old county hospital building from the wrecking ball.

On Thursday, things changed. Bobbie Steele -- two days after replacing John Stroger as president -- recommended that the hospital be added to the National Registry of Historic Landmarks.

A similar recommendation followed from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, and now both measures will be sent to the state and federal levels for approval.

If the designation is granted, the building at 1835 W. Harrison will be saved from demolition, and incentives will be available to encourage redevelopment.

"We never thought we'd get to this day," said Preservation Chicago's Jonathan Fine. "This is a huge victory. Logic has finally prevailed."

Steele said the county now will explore with nearby hospitals what the best use for it will be. "We are going to try to make the best use of that building with the least cost to the taxpayers," she said.

'Massive office shortage'

Citing "a massive office shortage" for doctors and clinics in the hospital district, Fine said, "It's a real no-brainer."

The old hospital's future has been in limbo since the new county-run Stroger Hospital opened behind it in 2002. John Stroger had called for tearing down the old structure.

Steele and preservationists agree that pavilions stretching off the main building should be ripped down -- work that will be done by next year.

Stroger's son, Todd, is the Democratic nominee in the fall election to replace Steele. Todd Stroger said, "I'm not against keeping some of the building," but he also believes there are parking and other needs in the area that the site could be used for.

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