Story URL:
Story Retrieval Date: 4/17/2015 11:29:21 AM CST

Top Stories

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Prentice Women's Hospital, designed by Bertrand Goldberg, is slated for demolition.

Northwestern's $1 billion medical research commitment latest move in Prentice building battle

by Tyler Day
Jan 15, 2013


Photo courtesy of Rush University Medical Center

Northwestern's new medical facility would be latest among recent hospital projects in Chicago.  Pictured above is Rush University Medical Center's $654 million project that opened Jan. 2012.


Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago in the Streeterville neighborhood was an $855 million project that opened in June.

Northwestern University announced a $1 billion investment in medical research centered on replacing the Prentice Women’s Hospital in Streeterville, despite a pending lawsuit to preserve the building.

The large financial commitment from the university could add additional pressure to resolve the ongoing legal battles over the unique building. Preservation groups have challenged the city of Chicago's refusal in November to grant landmark status to the university- owned property.

The timing of the announcement comes soon after Cook County Circuit Court Judge Neil Cohen’s decision Friday not to overturn the city’s decision. Cohen did prevent the building's destruction for 30 more days, giving the legal team representing preservationists more time to amend its complaint.

In a statement Monday, Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro said, "In order to build a 21st-century biomedical research facility, expand our medical school's research capacity and ultimately improve patients' lives, it is imperative that we have a thriving scientific research base."

School officials added, “The centerpiece of the $1 billion investment is the construction of a new state-of-the-art research building on the site of the former Prentice Women's Hospital, 320 E. Huron St.”

Michael Rachlis, speaking on behalf of the preservation group Save Prentice, responded, “The urgency of advancing medical research is undeniable. So it's mystifying that Northwestern officials are dragging their feet while others have done the hard work of identifying practical reuse alternatives for an important Chicago landmark.”

Prentice Women’s Hospital was designed by famed architect Bertrand Goldberg in the same style as Marina City near the Chicago Loop. Save Prentice members refer to the building as “an icon of Chicago ingenuity and innovation.” After landmark status was denied, preservationists filed suit since to challenge the city's ruling.

Northwestern did say that a new building is dependent on the resolution of the current lawsuit and full approval from city of Chicago officials.

In a recent building boom, Rush University Medical Center opened a new state-of-the-art hospital in January 2012. The Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital was unveiled in June and the University of Chicago Medical Center cut the ribbon on its new Center for Care and Discovery on Monday. The facility will begin accepting patients in February.

When Northwestern was asked if a different location could be used for the investment, university spokeswoman Marla Paul said, “There is not a backup plan.”

Members of Save Prentice include Preservation Chicago, Landmarks Illinois, National Trust, American Institute of Architects and Docomomo International, an association dedicated to preserving modern architecture.

Save Prentice members argue the existing building could be updated to modern standards of research and efficiency. In collaboration with healthcare design experts they have proposed plans to reuse the hospital, which they say would bring greater economic benefits to the city.

Northwestern officials assert that their “project is expected to generate $390 million annually in net economic impact for Chicago and more than 2,500 construction jobs will be created for the site's full-proposed redevelopment. When complete, the new research center will add more than 2,000 professional and related jobs.”

The judge set the next trial hearing for Feb. 15.