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Cook County General: Saved?

By Shannon in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 27, 2007 8:30PM

Hell may freeze over yet. After all of daddy John’s efforts to demolish old Cook County General Hospital, Todd Stroger’s leading the charge to renovate the beast. The Toddler plans to make it an agenda at next week’s County Board meeting. Preservation and renovation carry a price tag of roughly $140 million. For now, the plan is to turn the 93-year-old structure into medical office space, libraries, a day-care center and, if there’s any space left over, tenants from the Rush University Med Center and U of I Med Center of Chicago.

lion of the disenfranchised, disenfranchisedBoy, did this one catch us off-guard. Cook County General has been a hulking 625,000 square foot thorn in the side of the County Board even before its closure in 2002. That was the year John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County opened right next door to the old place, taking all the business. Now Stroger Jr.’s junior wants to rehab the very building his dad closed, despite infrastructure crumbling since before World War II? Veddy interesting. The cynic in us, however, suggests this project doesn’t really have legs.

Don’t get us wrong. Cook County Hospital is a gorgeous building and a fine example of Beaux-Arts architecture, a style also prevalent among older CTA stations. We’d love to see it saved somehow. Even with a preservationist’s optimism, we’re still broadsided by the reality of the situation. With all the hubbub about the piss-poor budget handling, things being so dire that commissioners are considering selling cemetery land to raise some cash, where on earth would Stroger, et. al. get the money for renovation? One possibility floated so far is the county could sell it to a developer who would rehab it, then lease it back. Put the words “developer,” “historic building” and “Chicago” together, and we break out in a cold sweat. And not to downplay the hospital’s significance, but aren’t there more pressing matters at hand lately? By the time they’re finished, they’ll have a newly-renovated hospital but no staff. If all else fails, we guess they could take the ideal Post Office route and become a giant morgue. With one built in, it’s already on its way!

Image courtesy of Michael DaKidd.