March 14 2013

Preservation or Progress? The Battle for Prentice Hospital

Prentice Hospital from the street

As architect Bertrand Goldberg’s civic legacy was highlighted in his engagement with Federal regulators during the Marina City Project, another prominent building of his remains mired in a preservation struggle. The Prentice Women’s Hospital (pictured above) is considered an icon of modern design, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation just lost the fight to save it from destruction. Northwestern University, who owns the building, is seeking to demolish Goldberg’s former maternity hospital and construct new medical research facilities in its Streeterville location.

The battle itself is a common scenario and a large problem for cities. The question is whether or not economic development and progress should be hindered in the name of design and aesthetics. Mayor Emanuel supported Northwestern University’s plans for their potential to sponsor research advances and economic development, and even most of the neighbors in the Streeterville community favored demolition. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, after an initial decision by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks to allow for demolition in November, filed a suit in Cook County Circuit Court claiming procedural violations and a rushed vote. Just a few weeks ago, the National Trust conceded defeat and dropped the suit, after the Commission held a second meeting to address the initial decision and voted once again in favor of razing the hospital, first constructed in 1975.

Prentice Detail

The Pro-Prentice groups tried to present alternatives that would incorporate the facility into Northwestern’s plans, but to no avail. The University repeatedly stated that the proposals didn’t fit their needs, and now plans to go ahead with the biomedical research facility, a facility that will have an estimated economic impact of $400 million. It’s too early to tell if the promise of this redevelopment scheme will be fulfilled, but the preservation struggle is over.

How does your city balance the need to preserve iconic buildings with growth?

Credits: Photographs by Andrew Kinaci. Data linked to sources.

Andrew Kinaci

After graduating from Princeton University with an A.B. in Architecture and a Certificate in Urban Studies, Andrew Kinaci set out to the Midwest to break out of the insular world of academia, and into the direct service of non-profit work. After a year working on Chicago’s West Side with a social enterprise specializing in re-entry employment training for ex-felons, Andrew now works for an organization conducting energy audits of multi-family affordable housing buildings. He will be blogging about the many ways Chicago is seeking a more sustainable and equitable urban future.

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 14th, 2013 at 9:04 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, History/Preservation, Land Use, Urban Development/Real Estate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “Preservation or Progress? The Battle for Prentice Hospital”

  1. Katherin Says:

    Great post.

  2. Andrew Kinaci Says:

    Thanks, Katherin!

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