Public debate surges over fate of Prentice Women’s Hospital

Susan Du, City Editor

Northwestern’s plan to build a new research facility in place of an old Chicago hospital has pitted the University against local preservationists in an increasingly heated public fight.

NU is currently seeking a demolition permit from Chicago to raze the Prentice Women’s Hospital, which was designed by famous architect Bertrand Goldberg and is owned by the University.

NU’s plan has been in the works for over a year and has faced opposition from the start. Some architects have vouched for the building’s historical value, and the University cites the advantage an updated research facility would have for biomedical science.

Last week, the University issued a call for international architecture firms to design the new research facility.

It is not clear whether the Commission on Chicago Landmarks will weigh in on the controversy at its Oct. 4 meeting. The meeting’s agenda has not yet been published.

If the commission approves landmark status for Prentice, it would circumvent NU’s plans.

Both parties are dueling for public opinion. As of Monday night, the Save Prentice Facebook page had gathered more than 2,000 likes and the Save Prentice Coalition’s petition to stop demolition had about 3,500 signatures.

This summer, Northwestern sought the support of students, alumni and neighbors for the proposed researched facility, marketing it as both an economic and academic boost. The project will bring an estimated $150 million in research grants to the University and a $390 million annual net income for Chicago, according to an NU news release from last month. The new research facility would also create 2,500 construction jobs and 2,000 staff positions, according to the release.

In an August poll conducted by public affairs firm Purple Strategies, 72 percent of Chicago residents who had heard both sides of the argument said they favored NU’s plan to build a new research facility.