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Cook County Hospital redevelopment nears starting line, with $135 million in financing

Sunday, May 27, 2018
Chicago Tribune
by Ryan Ori


Cook County Hospital redevelopment nears starting line, with $135 million in financing


Column: Cook County Hospital redevelopment nears starting line, with $135 million in financing




Cook County Hospital redevelopment



It appears long-awaited plans to redevelop the shuttered Cook County Hospital are taking a step forward. The derelict site could be turned into two hotels. (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill rendering)



Ryan OriBy Ryan Ori•Contact Reporter

Chicago Tribune


May 27, 2018, 7:15 PM 




Work to convert the long-vacant Cook County Hospital building into two Hyatt hotels, medical offices and retail space is expected to start soon, after the project secured about $135 million in financing.


Civic Health Development Group, the team led by Murphy Development Group, confirmed it closed Friday on financing to renovate the sprawling building in the Illinois Medical District.



Construction is expected to start within two weeks, Chairman and CEO John T. Murphy said.


Murphy has high hopes for his firm’s development, as well as other projects it may help get off the ground. “Once we reset this old building, I think you’ll see explosive development in this area,” he said. “It will unlock billions of dollars in investments, and jobs.”


The renovation will be the first of as many as five or more phases of development on the 14-acre site, Murphy said. The development is expected to later include new buildings for uses such as apartments and offices.


Kamin: Restoration plan for old Cook County Hospital has welcome elements »


Activity has been long awaited at the former hospital building, which has been vacant since 2002 and was once threatened with demolition. The Murphy-led development team has needed more than two years to put its plan into motion, in part because of the poor condition of the building’s interior.


“What everyone said can’t be done can finally be done,” Murphy said. “We’re going to turn a dilapidated building into the first phase of what could become a $1 billion project.”




First up is the existing building, an approximately 345,000-square-foot behemoth at 1835 W. Harrison St. The building is 550 feet long, the rough equivalent of a 50-story skyscraper turned on its side, Murphy said.


Financing for the initial phase consists of equity, construction loans and historic tax credits, valued at about $135 million combined, Murphy said.


Other equity investors include local real estate firms MB Real Estate, for which Murphy is vice chairman, and Walsh Investors and Granite Companies. Australia’s Plenary Group is also an investor.


Lenders include CIBC and private equity firm Ares Management.




The eastern two-thirds of the building will be converted to connected Hyatt House and Hyatt Place hotels with a combined 210 rooms, Murphy said.


Renovations also will create about 75,000 square feet of Cook County medical offices and 25,000 square feet of retail, likely including a food hall and pharmacy, he said.


There also will be a display honoring the Cook County medical campus’ history, Murphy said. He said it could include a mention of his great-uncle, John B. Murphy, who once worked on the campus and also was President Theodore Roosevelt’s doctor.


The old hospital building was the site of the first U.S. blood bank and other medical milestones.


The eight-story Beaux Arts building, designed by Cook County Architect Paul Gerhardt, was completed in 1914. The developers this year plan to seek city landmark status for the building, which is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Murphy said.


In 2003, County Board President John Stroger unsuccessfully pushed for the demolition of the brick, granite and terra-cotta building, saying it was outdated. During its long vacancy the interior has fallen into disrepair, with peeling paint throughout the building.


New plan for old Cook County hospital: hotel, apartments, shops »


Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is the architect, Koo Interiors is the interior designer and Walsh Construction is the contractor. Walsh Investors is the firm’s real estate investment arm.


Murphy has converted other historic buildings in Chicago, including turning the former Chicago Motor Club building into a Hampton Inn, a Loop office building into the Hyatt Centric Chicago and a portion of the Oriental Theatre building into a Cambria Suites.


As part of the development, Murphy’s venture previously signed a 99-year ground lease with the county, with two 25-year extension options.


The first phase is expected to be completed by summer 2020.


“We have long looked forward to this day, and we anxiously await restoration of this amazing building and returning it to its original glory,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement.


The development’s $300 million to $400 million second phase could start as soon as later this year, just east of the existing hospital building, Murphy said. New construction could create some combination of affordable housing, retail, parking and medical offices.


Demand for medical office and research space has exceeded expectations, Murphy said. If enough leases are signed, the entire second phase could be dedicated to those uses, he said.


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