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City To Tear Down Historic Reese Hospital Building

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Michael Reese Hospital

Chicago city officials plan to tear down the historic main hospital building on the former Michael Reese Hospital campus. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Going back on a promise to preservation groups, city officials announced Wednesday that the main hospital building at the former Michael Reese Hospital campus would be torn down by the end of the year.

The 103-year-old main hospital building was one of only four structures spared from demolition last year as the city went forward with plans to transform the site into a mixed-income community.

The Public Building Commission announced in a news release Wednesday afternoon that the main building has deteriorated to the point that it’s too dangerous to leave standing.

Crews will also tear down the Reese administration building and parking structure. The only Reese building left standing will be the historic Singer Pavilion, co-designed by architect Walter Gropius.

“The decision to take down these three structures was made after it was determined that the cost to maintain them is too great in this challenging economy and that the main hospital building poses a significant safety risk,” the PBC said in a news release.

The remaining Reese buildings have suffered from years of neglect and the main building has been overrun by squatters.

“The Chicago Fire Department, following an inspection of the main hospital building, determined that it posed an actual and imminent danger to the public and recommended it be demolished,” PBC Executive Director said Erin Lavin Cabonargi said. “The main hospital building was in very poor condition when the city purchased the former hospital campus site in 2009 and the building has continued to deteriorate.”

The PBC said that it would cost $13.2 million to stabilize the main hospital building, plus annual costs for maintenance, security and utilities.

The main building’s roof has begun to cave in, allowing rain to leak into the building, creating mold and other unsafe conditions.

As for the Singer Pavilion, the city has said that a final decision on whether to keep it will be determined through the request for proposal process to insure the city can recoup its $91 million purchase price.

Under terms of the purchase contract, the city does not have to make its first payment until October 2014.

The pavilion is a stand-alone structure which adjacent demolition would not leave vulnerable to the elements and other risks, according to the release. Its physical layout, coupled with a design that allows for natural light to spill into each wing, make it attractive for reuse.

The Michael Reese campus was originally targeted as an Olympic Village when Chicago bid for the 2016 Summer Games, but the Daley administration later decided to create a mixed-use community when Chicago lost the 2016 bid to Rio de Janeiro.

City officials now plan to transform the site into a mixed-use development, including mixed-income housing, as well as retail and open space that is easily integrated into the neighborhood.

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