From healthcare history to hospitality: Storied old Cook County Hospital slated to open in July with hotels, offices, museum

From healthcare history to hospitality: Storied old Cook County Hospital slated to open in July with hotels, offices, museum

John Murphy, chair of the Murphy Development Group, leads a virtual tour of the newly renovated Cook County Hospital, which will house two Hyatt-brand hotels, set to open in July. | Screen image

Ald. Walter Burnett, who was born in the West Side hospital nearly 57 years ago, said he’s “looking to have a birthday party here at Cook County Hospital.” Two Hyatt-brand hotels within the renovated hospital are slated to open in July with a food hall to open soon after.

The long neglected old black and white floor tile is no longer covered in grit and dirt, now cleaned and polished to a sheen. The water leaks are gone. A drop ceiling has been removed to reveal ornamental plaster and crown molding.

Some of the old surgical halls — their seats rusted over or covered in graffiti just last year – have been repurposed into hotel rooms, with wallpaper featuring the Chicago skyline and other Chicago-centric art.

Developers gave a virtual tour Friday of the old Cook County Hospital, the grand building at 1835 W. Harrison St. given a major facelift to house two hotels, a dining area, medical offices and a museum to pay tribute to the century-old hospital’s “tremendous medical history.”

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th Ward), who was born in the West Side hospital nearly 57 years ago, said he’s glad the opening is in July, and not just because his birthday falls in the following month.

“I’m looking to have a birthday party here at Cook County Hospital — hopefully you all can join me,” Burnett said.

The two Hyatt-brand hotels within the renovated Cook County Hospital are slated to open in July with a food hall in the building slated to open soon after, developers said during the virtual tour on Friday.

The renovated former hospital will feature 75,000 feet of medical office space, which will be occupied by the county’s medical system as well as a Hyatt House, which is meant for extended stays, and a regular Hyatt Place hotel.

The combined hotels offer 210 suites between them and the developers hope to open them July 1. By the end of July, the medical office spaces will be occupied. The area will now be known as Harrison Square.

There will also be a daycare center and a museum on the first floor that “pays recognition to the tremendous medical history here in Cook County,” said John Murphy, chair of the Murphy Development Group — which is one part of the Civic Health Development Group that was picked to redevelop the hospital.

John Murphy, chair of the Murphy Development Group, leads a virtual tour of the renovated Cook County Hospital.Screen image
John Murphy, chair of the Murphy Development Group, leads a virtual tour of the renovated Cook County Hospital.

Over a year ago, the Murphy Development Group was 70 percent through the demolition phase, the insides of the building covered in the usual dust and debris that comes with making something old new again.

On Friday, the dust of construction was largely gone, although a few tarps remained on chairs and ladders sat under lights.

“This is so exciting for the community,” Burnett said. “One of the great things about this development is that they had an African American partner — not as a contractor — an African American partner, two African American partners as part owners of this hotel and helped to develop it, so that’s exciting. But not only that, they hired a lot of people from the community, and we look forward to them hiring a lot of people to work here from the community, so this is exciting for our neighborhood, it’s exciting for the city of Chicago … it’s gonna attract more people to the city of Chicago.”

Little was said about the coronavirus pandemic that’s has debilitated the hospitality industry. The developers created a grant program for vendors who were “particularly hurt or injured by the pandemic,” Murphy said. That will cover all startup costs necessary to get people back on their feet.

When asked about concerns that the pandemic could affect business, Murphy said in a statement that “our business is more tied to serving patients and families that are moving forward with elective procedures at both Rush and U of I which commenced approximately 2 weeks ago.”

The old hospital was a proving ground for surgeons and other medical professionals — the first medical internship and first blood bank in the country were started there, and doctors performed some of the first surgical repair of fractures in its operating rooms.

The building was constructed at the turn of the century and is more than 100 years old. Before the renovation, it was shuttered for about 17 years, “abandoned and deteriorated to a level that no one thought could be turned around,” Murphy said.

Dirt, graffiti and neglect marked the old building when the Chicago Sun-Times toured it in early 2019. Much of it was gutted, though its high ceilings remained.

On Friday, Murphy spoke of the “beautiful ornamental plaster” and crown molding throughout.

Plans for a dining room and bar and lounge on the second floor, are now largely complete and those who visit the building will soon be able to play pool, sit in front of a sleek fire place and watch TV or hang out at an “extensive bar area,” Murphy said.

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