CHICAGO (WLS) -- Construction crews began demolishing the old Children's Memorial Hospital on Tuesday morning, as former patients and parents of former patients watched.
The demolition is the first step in a massive redevelopment project.
Dee Murrell had to see it for herself.
"The first two years of my life were spent here," said one-time patient Dee Murrel. "53 years ago, children's memorial saved my life and two of my siblings lives by performing one of the very first open heart surgeries."
The 58-year-old was among those present as crews began tearing down the old Children's Memorial Hospital.
Workers began demolishing the six acre site at Lincoln and Fullerton around 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.
A backhoe carefully began taking apart what was the building's first floor emergency room and second floor operating area.
The demolition will continue for the next six months before property is redeveloped.
"One of the things we're hoping is between this project and where the Apollo Theater is to bring more people into the revitalize the street," said Lincoln Park resident Allan Mellis.
The hospital, which has been vacant since 2012, will eventually give way to a massive multi-use complex which will include a 540-unit residence, 163,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, along with 60,000 square feet of open green space.
"Three restaurants have failed in the same building since Children's closed so it's really taken a toll on the small businesses," said Kenneth Dotson, president of Lincoln Central Association.
Critics say another high rise is not a good fit for the neighborhood.
A lawsuit to block the project was unsuccessful and construction begins early next year.
Still, many of those who witnessed the demolition say their time here at Children's changed their lives forever.
Bridgete Schank's son Jack had a successful liver transplant at Children's when he was just 18 month old. His dad was the donor. They are both doing fine.
She considers today a bittersweet moment but a good one for a building that remained a fixture in the community.
"It's holy ground, so whatever happens here, it's going to be good," Bridgete Schank, parent of a former patient.