Northwestern moves to start Prentice demolition
Northwestern University said it has received a city permit to demolish the former Prentice Women’s Hospital in Streeterville so the building can make way for a medical research complex.
In a first step toward starting demolition, Northwestern spokeswoman Pat Tremmel said the university installed fencing around the property on Friday. “We have weeks of asbestos abatement to undertake before we start to see demolition,” she said.
For more than two years, the Bertrand Goldberg-designed building at 333 E. Superior was the subject of an intense fight between the school and preservationists, who in February conceded defeat and withdrew a lawsuit over the city’s refusal to give it landmark protection.
Tremmel said Northwestern issued the demolition contract to Brandenburg Industrial Service Co.
A statement from Tremmel said in part, “We are moving forward, and have received a permit from the city to proceed with the demolition of the original building to make way for the new biomedical research complex which will be a Chicago hub for finding tomorrow’s cures and a way to bring thousands of jobs to Chicago.
“Our plans have been widely shared, transparent and public for years now, and we are proceeding with them.”
Northwestern ultimately convinced Mayor Rahm Emanuel to support demolition by arguing that the building was obsolete and that its plans to replace it would bring an annual $400 million economic boon and create 2,000 full-time jobs. The university has promised city officials it will start construction of a new building in 2015.
Groups led by the National Trust for Historical Preservation waged an extensive campaign to save Goldberg’s Prentice. They contended its modernist design, innovations in structural engineering and connection to a famous Chicago architect made it worthy of protection. Goldberg, who died in 1997, is best known for the corncob towers of Marina City.
The trust’s lawsuit against the city forced the Commission on Chicago Landmarks to hold a second hearing on Prentice at which it refused to give the building landmark status. The suit had contended an earlier hearing, at which the commission reached the same decision, was illegally rushed.
Both sides staged expensive public relations campaigns and enlisted prominent architects to back their positions. But the preservationists’ cause ultimately foundered against Streeterville neighbors’ indifference to, or in some cases hostility toward, the building. The cloverleaf design from 1975 was hailed as an engineering innovation for its time, but many people considered it ugly or dated.
Northwestern has said it will stage a design competition for the replacement complex.