The Cook County board has justifiably received a lot of criticism in recent years, most notably in 2008 for raising the sales tax, giving Chicago the highest sales tax of any major city in the country. One thing that I won't criticize them for is this-- On Tuesday, they voted unanimously to preserve the old Cook County Hospital building, approving $108 million in funding to adaptively rehab and convert the building into medical offices. This is fantastic news. The old hospital (which faces Harrison Street) is a real gem. It's both architecturally and historically significant, not to mention being a bit of a pop culture icon (it was the basis for the television show ER and featured prominently in the movie The Fugitive).
For those unfamiliar with the Cook County saga, the building has been vacant since 2002, when John H. Stroger Hospital replaced it. Old man Stroger (then county board President) tried to tear it down at the time, but was prevented from doing so after a public outcry from preservation groups and other members of the county board objected. Since 2002, large sections of the hospital have seen the wrecking ball-- notably the rear wings, Children's Hospital, and power plant-- but the original 1913 building has been spared. Now that the county has approved the funds to pay for its rehab, it finally appears to be safe.
Now, I'm not someone who believes that every single building should be saved, and I'm sure some will think this is a waste of money. The County plans to pay for this, in part, with Tax Increment Financing (TIF) dollars, which isn't magic money-- it ultimately comes out of our pocket books. That said, this is worth the cost. If you can't get behind saving Cook County Hospital, then you really can't get behind saving anything.
Photo Notes: Both photos were taken with a Nikon D50 and 18-70mm lens in 2008.
Further Reading: Blair Kamin at the Chicago Tribune has a nice series of blog posts on this topic.