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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A statement by Rahm means high noon for Prentice

Posted By on 10.30.12 at 06:00 PM

Bertrand Goldberg/Prentice Hospital
  • Courtesy of Geoffrey Goldberg
  • Bertrand Goldberg and Prentice Hospital
It looks like we can kiss Bertrand Goldberg's distinctive Prentice Women's Hospital building good-bye.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel came out today in favor of Northwestern University's plan to tear the iconic structure down in order to build a new medical research facility on the Prentice site.

Two weeks ago, 42nd Ward alderman Brendan Reilly announced that he'd reached the same conclusion.

And this afternoon, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks belatedly posted an agenda on the city website indicating that Prentice will be railroaded—er—considered for landmark designation at its meeting this Thursday. According to the agenda, an unusual, abbreviated process will be employed to take commission members (all mayoral appointees) from preliminary consideration to resolution in a single sitting.

This brevity is remarkable, considering that preservationists have been lobbying for years to get the commission to consider Prentice, and more than 80 architects from Chicago and around the world (including eight Pritzker prize winners) have signed letters urging the mayor to preserve the building, which features a unique quartet of cantilevered concrete towers atop a Miesian base.

Normally, the landmark designation procedure involves a series of steps over a period of months, including:

• A staff report to the commission, followed by a commission vote on preliminary landmark designation
• A subsequent impact report from the city commissioner of housing and economic development
• Request for the property owner's consent
• If the owner objects, a public hearing
• Final consideration and vote by the commission
• Recommendation for landmark designation to the landmarks committee of the City Council
• City Council landmarks committee vote on whether to recommend designation to the city council
• City Council vote

The Coalition to Save Prentice (made up of preservation groups including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Landmarks Illinois, and Preservation Chicago) issued a statement today appealing to the landmarks commission to do its job as an independent body: "This will be the Commission's most significant decision in years. The citizens of Chicago deserve a fair public hearing on the facts and merits of the case," the coalition wrote.

Maybe they think there's a chance the commission members will buck the mayoral and aldermanic tide. That would be as startling as Goldberg's innovative Prentice design.

The commission meeting is scheduled for 12:45 PM, Thu 11/1, at City Hall, room 201-A. It's open to the public.

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