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Stroger plans rehab.
$140 million plan would preserve historic structure

Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Chicago Journal

A plan proposed by County Board President Todd Stroger would preserve the 93-year-old Cook County Hospital building, which would be renovated for medical offices.

The $140 million plan was on the agenda at last week's County Board meeting, and could finally put an end to the debate that has been raging for the past decade about whether to save or demolish the historic building on the city's West Side.

Former board President John Stroger wanted the historic building to be torn down during the construction of the new public hospital that opened next door in 2002. But his son, Todd Stroger, is now in the position to reverse his wishes.

"The proposal sounds great. We hope that the process can move quickly from this point forward," said Michael Moran, vice president of Preservation Chicago. "It's been a Shakespearean struggle for the past decade."

The old 1930's-era nurses dormitory would be demolished under the plan, and the medical administrative offices that it currently houses would be relocated to the historic hospital building. While losing the nurses dorm, located at 1900 W. Polk, Moran still sees this as a victory for preserving Chicago architecture.

"We've always known that the nurses building would be a tough sell for preservation, so we've never fought for that building," Moran said. "Meanwhile, the offices in that building need to go somewhere. The old Cook County Hospital is a perfect place for them."

Four wings that were added to the back of the old hospital building after the main facade was constructed also will be torn down. The County Board agreed to the removal of the wings in 2005, so more parking could be added.

The hospital building would be revamped and its detailed Beaux-Arts style facade would be restored, and it would continue to serve the county as a medical institution. The renovated structure also will house other services, including a daycare. Any additional space in the building will be rented out to nearby Rush University Medical Center and the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicag.

Aside from preserving the historic structure, the plan also calls for the renovation to include energy efficient, sustainable building technology that will meet LEED certification. Some details, including who will pay for the construction, have not yet been determined.

"This building has both a tremendous beauty and a tremendous cultural significance," Moran said. "It is an asset that will help make our city special for future generations."

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