Less Real Estate Translates Into Real Savings for Cook County Taxpayers

Oak Forest Health Center campus reduction, warehouse consolidation among strategies designed to trim County's property footprint


Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today announced real estate consolidation and realignment initiatives that are expected to reduce County building square footage by the equivalent of 4.5 football fields in 2016, with estimated annual operating savings of more than $1.3 million and avoidance of over $30 million in immediate capital investment.

Early in her first term, President Preckwinkle issued an executive order to re-evaluate and devise a strategic multi-year plan to address the County's real estate infrastructure. As a result, the Cook County's Real Estate Asset Strategic Realignment Plan project was initiated to review the condition and use of the County's real estate assets. Its recommendations, if fully implemented, are expected to save the County $192 Million over a 10-year period.

Cook County occupies too much space and has historically used it inefficiently, Preckwinkle said. I have repeatedly said we will do whatever we can do make government more efficient and fiscally responsible, and reducing our real estate footprint is a good example of that. These actions will save money and streamline County operations.

The Oak Forest campus contains 1.1 million square feet of building area, with the Oak Forest Health Center and Cook County Health and Hospitals System administrative space as the primary occupants. The County estimates roughly 50 percent of the campus is underused or used as inactive storage areas.

Over the next 20 years, it would cost the County an estimated $350 million to operate the campus. With some of the buildings on campus dating back to 1910, the County also estimates the campus would need roughly $130 million in capital investment over that time frame.

With a long-range goal of consolidating uses on the campus to less than 300,000 square feet, the County intends to demolish seven buildings in the coming year, reducing the Oak Forest Health Center campus by almost 260,000 square feet, or about 23 percent of its current size. This will avoid 10-year capital investment of more than $100 million on functionally obsolete buildings, and reduce operating expenses by roughly $1.3 million per year. Health care services would be relocated in buildings designed to enhance the delivery of care and reduce costs.

Since taking office, President Preckwinkle has overseen the County's leasing of the 4th, 34th and 35th floors at the George W. Dunne Administrative Building, with an increase in annual revenues from the building averaging $2 million.

President Preckwinkle has reiterated her commitment to further shrink the County's facilities footprint and to lease excess space in its 69 West Washington building. The County has set a target of leasing an additional 75,000 square feet by 2018 at 69 West Washington as part of its ongoing initiative to reduce the real estate footprint of county government.

The County saved $10 million by purchasing a new Records Center for storage of court documents. The building more efficiently uses space for its designated purpose and reduced the square footage occupied by these records. In 2016, plans will be finalized to further consolidate from the County's two general warehouses to one, shrinking occupancy by more than 400,000 square feet by 2018.

This is an important step toward better utilizing our real estate during challenging financial times, President Preckwinkle added. By modernizing our approach on real estate, we can reduce office space and reduce costs. Over the coming months, we will be pushing a comprehensive plan to further increase efficiency and reduce our use of real estate to address our fiscal challenges.

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