Northwestern, government officials celebrate new Feinberg building at groundbreaking

The lot where the Prentice Women’s Hospital once stood will soon be home to the Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Biomedical Research Center. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new research building was held Friday.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The lot where the Prentice Women’s Hospital once stood will soon be home to the Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Biomedical Research Center. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new research building was held Friday.

Matthew Choi, Reporter

Northwestern, Chicago and Illinois officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday to mark the start of construction on the Feinberg School of Medicine’s new research building.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Chicago Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd) joined NU President Morton Schapiro, administrators and alumni at the ceremony for the Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Biomedical Research Center.

The building’s construction and naming come after a $92 million donation from NU trustee Louis A. Simpson (Weinberg ‘58) and his wife Kimberly K. Querrey, who were also present at the event.

The new building will be constructed on the site where Prentice Women’s Hospital previously stood. The demolition of the Prentice building was held up for two years amid debate over whether the building should be preserved as a historical landmark. In February 2013, Chicago’s landmarks commission denied the building landmark status. NU began the process of demolishing the building in March 2013.

Dr. Eric Neilson, vice president for medical affairs and a Feinberg dean, opened the event, discussing the importance of the new facility in research advancement and thanking those who contributed to its construction.

“It’s fitting we build this new research facility in the heart of the campus because it’s a catalyst for biomedical discovery,” Neilson said. “Absolutely nothing that’s done in a hospital or clinic today … didn’t start as experiments in a laboratory.”

Neilson also discussed the plans for the new building, which will have two phases. The first phase will have 14 stories, including nine laboratory floors, all of which will be dedicated to biomedical research, he said. The second phase of construction will include an additional 15 floors, Nielson said, making the building an important addition to the Chicago skyline.

The facility will be closely associated with the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Patrick Magoon, president and CEO of the hospital, spoke during the event about the importance of the hospital’s partnership with NU.

“When we moved to this medical campus just three short years ago, we made a promise,” Magoon said. “A promise that our new facility would create a catalyst for change.”

Schapiro said he hopes the new research facility will bring the different schools at NU together and attract external investment. Based on previous experience with similar projects, Schapiro said, the new facility and its research will attract venture capitalists and promote startups. Feinberg already attracts almost $500 million in research grants each year, he said.

“I’m especially excited about how this new building will bring together scientists from Feinberg, from the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, along of course with those of Lurie Children’s, to form new collaborations that can impact health care in ways that have never been possible before,” Schapiro said.

Schapiro also spoke about the significance of the date selected for the groundbreaking.

“When we discovered that this was 90 years ago to the day, May 8, 1925, that we broke ground on our Chicago campus, we decided this was truly a magically auspicious day,” Schapiro said.

Kirk spoke on what the new biomedical research facility means for Illinois and the state’s place in American medical and technological advancement.

“In my role in the Senate, I see myself as the number one salesman for the state of Illinois,” Kirk said. “I’m selling us as the heart of innovation. … I want to go on the Senate floor one day and say I represent the state where they cured cancer at this institution.”

Simpson and Querrey spoke about their dedication to biomedical research and their long history with NU. Simpson has been on the Board of Trustees since 2006.

“As we were thinking about philanthropic efforts, we decided — being somewhat capitalistic and practical — that we wanted to do something that would have a return on investment,” Querrey said. “And saving human lives and improving the condition of human lives is something that we both felt very strongly about.”

Including previous donations, Simpson and Querrey have donated a total of $117.8 million to NU’s “We Will” campaign, making them the largest donors to the campaign.

Reilly — a supporter of the new facility — and Emanuel spoke on the facility’s significance and anticipated contribution to Chicago and pediatric medicine. The new facility will create about 2,500 new construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs in biomedicine, Emanuel said.

“This center cements Chicago’s leadership in the world, and I want to thank all of you,” Emanuel said. “I will say on behalf of all parents, thank you.”

The event ended with a ceremonial turning of dirt and a reception. Schapiro said he was happy with how the ceremony went and that he was optimistic for what the new facility will produce.

“We’re creating a new future that benefits not just people in Chicago but throughout the world,” Schapiro told The Daily. “History suggests that discoveries that come out of this magnificent building will keep us healthy and alive.”

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