So-Called “Green Mayor” Moves to Raze Historic Hospital Campus

Lynn Becker writes in the April 23rd Chicago Reader that the bulldozers are coming to the Michael Reese Hospital campus.

On June 4, Mayor Daley will be recognized by the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., as one of their “Visionaries in Sustainability” for his “long dedication to a sustainable urban environment.” Yet within a month, if his administration has its way, bulldozers could be moving in to demolish and discard at least 28 of the 29 buildings on the former campus of Michael Reese Hospital. Last week the city opened the bidding process for the job.

rush_razeThe Michael Reese complex includes 1.6 million square feet of building space, representing over a million barrels of crude oil, the primary product from which gasoline is distilled. Demolishing Michael Reese will create more than 120,000 tons of debris, enough to fill nearly 800 train boxcars that together would take up seven miles of track. Even if some of the debris is recycled, as required by city law, the Michael Reese tear-down plan is clearly adding to a problem: of the estimated 164 million tons of building-related waste generated nationwide each year, 53 percent comes from demolition, according to the U.S. EPA.

Once all Michael Reese is rubble, expensively smashed and carted away, then the mayor is expecting to sell off the site to a developer willing to commit $1.1 billion to construct more buildings that can house the 15,000 athletes participating in the 2016 Summer Olympics, the sugar plum that ate Daley’s brain.

Housing that many people would take much more space than the Michael Reese buildings have to offer, but based on the report cited by Moe, just replacing Reese’s current 1.6 million square feet with new construction would release as much carbon into the atmosphere as a car driving 89,600,000 miles. At 20 miles a gallon, that’s the equivalent of another 200,000 barrels of crude. And, according to Moe, even if 40 percent of the construction materials are recycled and energy efficiency is maximized, it will take 65 years for a new building to recover the embodied energy lost in a tear-down.

Oh well. So much for claims of being “green.” And then there’s the matter of ripping up priceless public land to build $900 million of sports facilities, many of which will then be torn down. You know what would be REALLY green? How about spending public money to EXPAND our park system and create MORE green space in neighborhoods that sorely lack parks and playgrounds?


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