Finding a new use for the old Cook County Hospital is back on the drawing board after the County Board voted Wednesday to spend $2.4 million to study ways to reuse the shuttered building, shift functions from other buildings into nearby Stroger Hospital and redevelop the surrounding area.
The 100-year-old hospital was boarded up more than 11 years ago, when patients and staff made the move to Stroger. It was originally slated for demolition, but an outcry from architectural preservationists started a long line of efforts to find new uses for the building.
At least $1.4 million already has been spent on those efforts. Three years ago, plans were laid to spend $126 million to put office space in the structure for use by the vast Cook County Health and Hospitals System. But that plan fizzled.
Backers of the latest study say the time is ripe to do something with the old hospital with the Illinois Medical District making plans to develop property at 2020 W. Ogden Ave. nearby, the CTA looking to redevelop a nearby Blue Line rapid-transit stop and the health system searching for ways to be more efficient.
"The county wants to be at the table as these redevelopment opportunities take place," said John Cooke, who is in charge of the county's capital planning.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said she has faith that Chicago Consultants Studio Inc., which will be the lead agency on the planning effort and also is doing work for the Illinois Medical District, will come up with a viable plan.
"Just because there have been efforts in the past to look at the Stroger Hospital campus that didn't lead anywhere doesn't mean that this one won't lead anywhere," Preckwinkle said. "We've got a lot of land there, and the question is how does it make sense to develop and redevelop that land."
Chicago Consultants Studio will look not only at possible reuses for the old hospital, but also at whether administrative and medical functions at two nearby buildings should be moved into Stroger. The study also hopes to come up with a blueprint for the entire 10 acres of county-owned land.
The goal is to come up with a "strategic road map" in 90 days, solicit proposals by fall and sign an agreement by spring 2015, according to county documents.
Those documents indicate that much of the subcontracting work will go to minority- and female-owned firms, although some are familiar names around City Hall and the County Building.
Lobbying for the plan will be a law firm whose founding partner is Homero Tristan, a former Chicago human resources commissioner who resigned in the wake of allegations that he lied during a probe of city hiring.
A law firm whose lead partner is Langdon Neal, chairman of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, will work on zoning issues. And the Target Group consulting firm, owned by Joe Williams, a longtime associate of former Metra Chairman Larry Huggins, will help with community engagement in the planning process.