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Rahm Backs Northwestern In Prentice Demolition Debate [UPDATE]

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 30, 2012 7:30PM

Photo credit: Randy Plemel, Jr.

In an op-ed to be published in tomorrow's Tribune (but can be read online by clicking here), Mayor Rahm Emanuel voiced his support for demolishing Historic Prentice Women’s Hospital so Northwestern University can build a state-of-the-art biomedical research facility.

Emanuel had been non-committal on the Prentice debate between NU and preservationists who have been fighting to save the building. In the end, he sided with the nearly 2,000 jobs the center is expected to create and the opportunity for it to help make Chicago—wait for it—a ”world class city.”

My position is guided by the belief that we should constantly strive to build a better future. As we have throughout our history, every time Chicago rebuilds, we build a stronger, more global city.

It is clear that the current building cannot accommodate the groundbreaking research facility that Northwestern needs to build, and I support the decision to rebuild on the site.

Northwestern has been winning the debate over tearing down the Bertrand Goldberg-designed hospital, despite opposition from preservationists and noted architects like Jeanne Gang. (Gang even drew up a potential design for Northwestern to have its research center without tearing down Prentice.)

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said earlier this month he was inclined to support Northwestern’s plan to demolish Prentice, barring a “eureka moment.”

Update 3:25 p.m.: The Save Prentice Coalition released a statement responding to Emanuel that also asks the Commission on Chicago Landmarks (now the final hurdle between Northwestern and Demolition) to grant the hospital land mark status.

Prentice is a landmark by any measure and deserves a permanent place in Chicago's skyline. In a letter to Mayor Emanuel, 80 world-renowned architects - half of them from Chicago - wrote that "historic Prentice exceeds the criteria for Chicago landmark designation." The letter goes on to say that a "building this significant - this unique in the world - should be preserved and reused."

The subject of Prentice's future is on the Commission on Chicago Landmarks' Nov. 1 agenda.

Update 5:35 p.m.: Northwestern University spokesman Alan Cubbage released a statement:

Forcing Northwestern to preserve an outdated building that does not meet the University’s needs would have a significant detrimental impact not just on Northwestern, but also on the Chicago metropolitan area. Northwestern plans to build a new, state-of-the-art biomedical research facility on that site. Doing so will create approximately 2,500 construction jobs and 2,000 full-time jobs, have an annual economic impact of nearly $400 million and make Chicago a global leader in medical science.

The new building on the Prentice site would be connected on a floor-by-floor basis with the existing University research building just to the west of the site. Doing so will bring researchers together and thereby enhance the chances of finding breakthroughs in cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders, among others. The site is the linchpin for the University’s planned research complex.

The university's statement also said a competition would begin next year to determine who will get to design and build the new facility, if the Commission on Chicago Landmarks votes in favor of demolishing Historic Prentice.