Progress Illinois: Development plan for old Cook County Hospital site wins approval

The Cook County Board Finance Committee approved a redevelopment plan for the old Cook County Hospital, over objections from some community advocates.

The Westside Community Benefits Coalition, spearheaded by Action Now, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the Community Renewal Society, wanted the plan tweaked to “include community hiring for people with criminal records, residents of the 29th and 37th wards [on Chicago’s West Side], and that the commitment to local hiring increases significantly.”

The plan was ultimately approved by a 10-1 vote, with Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, whose district includes Chicago’s West Side, voting “no.” While the commissioner said he does not “have any problems with redevelopment,” he wants to see measures approved to bolster funding for anti-violence and youth employment efforts.

Chicago Tribune coverage of the plan.

Under a redevelopment agreement proposed last month, the old Cook County Hospital building would be rehabbed into a mixed-use site with a hotel plus retail and residential space. The privately funded project is part of a larger, multi-phase redevelopment plan for the area, including construction of a new research and technology center.

“Given the high unemployment on the West Side, it would be shameful for a development of this size to come into this area and not allow nearby residents the opportunity to be productive citizens where they live and work,” Gale Lewis, a Community Renewal Society leader, said in a statement.

The agreement reportedly requires at least 7.5 percent of construction jobs go to area residents.