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With roots dating back to 1857, the preserved Cook County Hospital in Chicago’s Near West Side has sat vacant for nearly two decades and is now being transformed into a 210-room Hyatt House and Hyatt Place Chicago Medical/University District. This 342,000-square-foot adaptive reuse project, part of a $150 million multiphase plan, is spearheaded by Murphy Development and SOM, in a design-build collaboration with Walsh Construction, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., and KOO. It will also feature over 4,000 square feet of meeting space, open concept public spaces, a 24-hour fitness center, Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall, medical offices, and a museum paying tribute to the hospital’s legacy. Aimbridge Hospitality will manage the hotels.

The building, originally designed by Paul Gerhardt, suffered severe deterioration due to deferred maintenance and exposure to the elements once it closed down. The project will restore and preserve the historical pieces that have been rooted there for over 160 years, which includes the original Beaux-Arts masonry detailing and terracotta ornamentation of the exterior, the wood-framed windows, interior decorative plaster work, the double-height main lobby and 106-year old restored marble stone staircase, elevator cores, as well as the double-loaded corridor and interior terrazzo flooring. The team also spent over $18 million to replace all windows and 4,160 terracotta pieces on the exterior.

The interior was completely gutted except for the old surgical theaters on the eighth floor, first used by Rush Medical School when the hospital opened in 1857. Replaced by Stroger Hospital of Cook County, the space was later preserved as an architecturally significant landmark, often referred to as Chicago’s “Ellis Island,” a safe haven where anyone was able to receive service and care. The hospital turned hotel is now both an official Chicago landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also known for being host to the world’s first ever blood bank, and inspiration for medical TV drama ER. The adaptive reuse design will include a new façade for a portion of the southern face of the hospital, previously connected to the demolished projecting wings and additions. A museum gallery will also be built onsite to pay homage to the history of the building.

Photo: Courtesy of Hyatt Hotels Corporation

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