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Fight Over Future Of Prentice Women's Hospital Still Simmering

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Commission on Chicago Landmarks is expected to soon weigh in on whether to demolish the distinctive concrete cloverleaf building that once housed Prentice Women's Hospital.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor reports preservationists have been fighting hard to save the building, but Northwestern Memorial Hospital wants to tear it down, and the local alderman has said he is inclined to support the teardown plan.

Northwestern University, which owns the building, plans to demolish the old Prentice Hospital to make way for a new biomedical research facility on the Streeterville campus of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports


But Bonnie McDonald, president of Landmarks Illinois, said the striking structure designed by architect Bertrand Goldberg should be reused.

"We believe that there's a compromise that will meet the needs of the neighborhood – for its other uses – that will meet Northwestern's needs, and preserve an icon of innovation," she said. "Preservation is progress. Preservation creates jobs, and it creates economic development in neighborhoods."

But university spokesman Alan Cubbage said demolishing Prentice to make way for a biomedical research facility is the right thing to do.

"We think that doing research into things like cancer, and Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease – and trying to come up with the causes and cures for those things – and in the meantime creating 2,000 jobs and bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to the city of Chicago are also very good goals," he said.

Cubbage said no other site will do.

"It's adjacent to our existing research building, the Lurie Medical Research Center, and by building on this site we can connect on a floor-by-floor basis, where it essentially becomes almost like one big building," he said.

A measure to grant landmark status to Prentice has been presented to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, which meets next on Nov. 1, although it's not yet clear if the panel will discuss the matter then. If the city grants landmark status, the building would be granted special protections, making it much more difficult to demolish or significantly change the building.

The battle over Prentice's future is the focus of this week's "At Issue" program, which airs Sunday at 9:30 p.m. on WBBM 780 and 105.9FM

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