Updated: Preservationists sue Commission of Chicago Landmarks over Prentice decision

Susan Du and Marshall Cohen

Update, 4 p.m. Thursday:

A Cook County judge handed down a preliminary ruling in favor of preservationists this afternoon and granted temporary landmark status to Prentice Women’s Hospital.

The next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 7 and the city of Chicago cannot issue a demolition permit while the temporary stay is in place, according to the Chicago Tribune.

— Marshall Cohen

Original story:

Preservationist groups have filed a lawsuit accusing the Commission of Chicago Landmarks of breaking city codes when they declined landmark status for Prentice Women’s Hospital.

The panel voted Nov. 1 against granting landmark status to Prentice, which Northwestern plans to demolish in order to build a new biomedical research center.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Landmarks Illinois, both plaintiffs in the lawsuit, maintain the commission’s Nov. 1 meeting adopted a procedure that disadvantaged the preservationist cause and pre-determined Prentice’s fate. They allege that the commission overstepped its boundaries by granting preliminary landmark status based on the building’s architectural integrity and then revoking it after an economic report from the Department of Housing and Economic Development.

Preservationists believe the commission’s sole job was to evaluate Prentice according to a set of seven architectural principles and nothing more, according to a news release.

From the beginning, NU argued that tearing down the abandoned hospital and building a state-of-the-art research facility provided long-term economic and scientific benefits. Preservationists have doggedly pursued reuse options for the building, including winning studies from the Chicago Architectural Club’s 2012 Chicago Prize Competition, to be unveiled tonight.

Peter Strazzabosco, Department of Housing and Economic Development spokesman, previously told The Daily that the landmarks ordinance determines the procedure for landmarks commission meetings, which are never adapted on a case-by-case basis.

The landmarks ordinance states preliminary landmark status is granted based on architectural criteria, but commissioners must also consider a separate report that takes into account economic feasibility before making a final recommendation to the Chicago City Council.

— Susan Du