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What Happened With The Prentice Flip-Flop?

By Chuck Sudo in News on Nov 2, 2012 2:33PM

Photo credit: ChicagoGeek

Late Thursday the Commission on Chicago Landmarks unanimously approved preliminary landmark status for Historic Prentice Women’s Hospital. We wrote the vote wasn’t definitive as Northwestern University and preservationists spent nearly two hours presenting their arguments before the Commission.

Then the commission voted 8-1 in favor of denying Prentice final landmark status, meaning Northwestern University can tear down the building. It was a case of classic Chicago politics—the Tribune called it “a fancy bit of parliamentary footwork” by the commission—and a blow to the efforts of the Save Prentice Coalition. The coalition’s Twitter updates seemed to recognize the fix was in.

During the six-hour meeting, the commission worked from a prepared script to first vote in favor of preliminary landmark status, then allowed 120 people to testify in favor of preservation or demolition before being “swayed” by Northwestern’s study on the economic impact building a new biomedical research facility on the old Prentice site would have on the city. (Curious how the NU’s bullet points and the city’s dovetailed, no?)

Chicagoist’s Chris Bentley, covering the hearings for The Architect’s Newspaper, questioned the commission’s unusual decision to essentially vote two different ways on the same issue in the same meeting. (We’ve included a couple of Chris’s tweets in a Storify we put together of reaction to the vote.)

Northwestern spokesman Alan Cubbage released a statement to media applauding the commission’s decision that reached our inboxes almost as soon as we heard about the final vote.

Northwestern will now move forward with its 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 on the area and make Chicago a global leader in medical science. The new building on the Prentice site will 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 what will be a major new medical research hub.

NU already announced they would hold a competition next year to determine the architect who will design the new facility that will replace old Prentice. Meanwhile, preservationists are left with another reminder of a city that doesn't recognize its own architectural marvels.