The Surprising History of the Illinois Medical District
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The Illinois Medical District, which spans 560 acres of Chicago’s West Side, is the largest urban medical district in the United States. Just three miles from downtown Chicago, the IMD caters to the most diverse patient population in the country and is estimated to create 3.4 billion dollars of economic opportunity for the Windy City. This special-use zoning district has put Chicago on the map for its world renowned healthcare and medical research, which has employed over 30,000 people. But over 100 years ago, this wasn’t the case: The formation of Chicago’s leading hospitals, medical schools, and healthcare institutions contains a special history, unknown to many.
A Moment in History: The Great Chicago Fire of 1871
In 1871, The Great Chicago Fire roared through Chicago for two days. While the origins of the fire remains a historical mystery, its devastating impact is well remembered today: An estimated 300 people were killed and 3.3 square miles of the city demolished. 17,460 buildings burned to the ground, including Chicago’s hospitals and medical colleges. While the downtown and North Side of the city were ravaged by the fire, The West Side was left untouched. In 1876, Cook County hospital decided to rebuild in this location as it was just miles away from downtown Chicago. Rush Medical College followed, setting up shop just across the street. This formation of medical facilities created a domino effect, which led to the neighborhood becoming a hotspot for healthcare and medical institutionsToday, the Illinois Medical District is home to over 40 healthcare-related facilities among universities, medical research, and laboratories. With its close proximity to The Loop, It has flourished into a budding neighborhood for employment and healthcare. The University of Illinois Medical Center, which includes the largest college of medicine in the country, is also a part of the district. Many medical students and healthcare workers choose to live nearby the district for convenient commute times. Common Addams, a Common coliving home located on the border of the Illinois Medical District and Pilsen, draws in many medical students and healthcare workers from across the world for this very reason.
Looking Forward: The Illinois Medical District’s Plan for Expansion
In 2019, the leadership of the IMD announced a master plan to further its development and spur economic growth. The plan details a strategic vision in accordance with key stakeholders, land use, density, and zoning recommendations. These urban design guidelines in place are set to develop the 30 acres of vacant land and increase leasing opportunities. In its 10 year projection, the plan anticipates a staggering 2,000 to 4,5000 new jobs and an estimated $300 million in revenue. With world-renowned healthcare and research facilities, this economic vibrancy will draw in top talent from all over the country. Another benefit of the IMD’s expansion includes a more thoughtful approach to planning and reconstruction. Chicagoans can look forward to an elevated neighborhood and budding economic future in its healthcare and medical sector.