Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today highlighted a plan that is expected to save more than $100 million over the next 15 years by consolidating and better managing county real estate.
The County plans to reduce downtown office space to save $30 million. The County anticipates saving about $8 million by consolidating highway facilities, roughly $18 million by modernizing records storage in County warehouses, and $45 million by removing considerable unused space at Oak Forest Health Center. The Department of Capital Planning will perform an analysis of each project phase to determine the necessary capital investment required to ensure the plan is successful.
“Historically, Cook County did not maintain a complete portfolio of the real estate it owned and operated,” President Preckwinkle said. “We have compiled these records to understand what we have and what we need. Now that we’ve studied our inventory we have developed a long-term strategy to reduce our footprint and save significant taxpayer money.”
Reduce Downtown Office Space
The County occupies 1.6 million square feet of office space in downtown Chicago. This includes the County Building, the George W. Dunne Administration Building and the non-courtroom areas of the Richard J. Daley Center. By adopting more modern space use standards and reconfiguring offices, the County will be able to reduce the space it uses by up to 22 percent. The County would then be able to lease open downtown office space to generate revenue, which is expected to cover renovation costs. The County has already leased the 34th floor at the Dunne Building and is actively pursuing a tenant for the 35th floor.
Consolidate Highway Facilities
The County maintains five highway facilities which serve as district headquarters for road maintenance operation. Snow plows and other necessary equipment to maintain county roads and highways are housed at these facilities. The County plans to close the LaGrange Park location by consolidating the functions and staff to other district facilities. Available space at the Orland Park maintenance facility would be repurposed as an impound lot for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, allowing the County to sell the current impound lot. This work will begin in 2014.
Modern Records Storage
The County uses three warehouses – which total roughly 985,000 square feet – to store records. It cost about $5.5 million a year to maintain that space. Modernizing County records collection is expected to reduce storage space between 20 to 30 percent. In addition, the County recently purchased a new warehouse in Cicero that will allow for the more efficient use of space. As an example, the County will be able to increase the density of boxes per square foot up to eight from two at the Cicero location. The County plans to implement this plan within three years.
Repurpose Oak Forest Health Center Campus
Oak Forest Health Center occupies 1.1 million square feet. The County estimates roughly 50 percent of the campus is underused or used as inactive storage areas. Over the next 15 years, it will cost the County $251 million to maintain these buildings. With some of the buildings on campus dating back to 1910, the County also estimates the campus will need roughly $129 million in capital repairs. In order to avoid expenses on functionally obsolete buildings the County intends to reduce the Oak Forest Health Center Campus by up to 75 percent. Health care services would be located in buildings designed to enhance the delivery of care and reduce costs. This work would take four to five years.
“This plan requires cooperation from everyone involved,” Preckwinkle said. “I am confident we can work together as we continue to bring the County into the 21st century.”