Both sides tried their best to tug the heart strings at yesterday's Landmarks Commission review of Old Prentice, and, for a moment, it seemed preservationists might prevail. Northwestern University's argument centered on "humanitarianism"— that their pursuit of long-range growth in biomedical research can only be realized with the demolition of Bertrand Goldberg's obsolete structure. As was repeated often in the University's testimony, spearheaded by Senior VP of Business and Finance Eugene Sunshine, "We have no interest in Prentice, it has no value to us". That unsentimental detachment from the building's citywide stature worked up the crowd and even jolted a couple commissioners to life. A hours-long tide of heavily pro-preservation testimony from the public commenced after the University's official statement and brief questioning by the commission. The speakers included Bertrand Goldberg's son, his secretary, former colleagues, engineers, architects, and lead preservationists. Testimony began at around 1:30 and dragged on well into the evening. Curbed caught a representative sample but couldn't stay through to the vote. Despite the emotional tide, the Landmarks Commission voted 8-1 to oppose the landmarking of Old Prentice Women's Hospital.
It's debatable whether the Mayor's alignment with Northwestern browbeat the commission into this outcome, but that's how it looks. The strangest part was the competing departmental reports: Landmarks staff argued Prentice met four of seven criteria for approval (only two are required): heritage of its design; architecture deemed exemplary; its association with a famous architect; and the presence of a "unique visual feature." The commission duly recognized these traits before ceding back to Housing Commissioner Andrew Mooney's report that the civic and economic importance of Northwestern's bio-med research plans outweigh that of preserving the building. And that, friends, is the argument that ruled the day. Prentice is now officially on borrowed time.
·Complete Prentice Coverage [Curbed Chicago]