August 27, 2012
Mayor Rahm Emanuel
City of Chicago
Chicago City Hall, 5th Floor
121 N. LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60602
Dear Mr. Mayor:
I am writing to you regarding Northwestern University’s Biomedical Research Initiative on the site of the former Prentice Women’s Hospital. Simply put, I urge you not to designate this 50-year facility with landmark status. We learned of this situation over the last six months. As a national firm knowledgeable of biomedical research and its importance to Chicago and the country, we see this picture:
Northwestern’s Ability to Grow Research
Ten years ago, Northwestern University built the Lurie Research Center and Northwestern Memorial Hospital phased out and replaced old Prentice with a new women’s hospital of the same name. Now the University is ready to take the next step: build off the research infrastructure in Lurie with a long-term plan to grow this premier research center. Northwestern is very limited in developable land; they have none that is contiguous to Lurie other than this site.
Counterproposal to Re-Use Prentice as a Research Building
We have become familiar with a re-use proposal for Prentice as a research center. As an expert in this building type, I simply say it is not feasible, either programmatically or technically. The trend in research is toward large footprints of open research space with adjoining support; 25-40,000 SF is normal. One of the great benefits of adding to Lurie is the ability to share support space, thus avoiding duplication of cold rooms, BSL-3 labs, equipment rooms, et al, that are part of this research endeavor. On a functional level, the old Prentice does not approximate these conditions in any way. In addition, the technical requirements for 21st-century research are 15’ floor to floor, 150#/SF live load, and high turnover of outside air (100%). Old Prentice simply doesn’t come close to any of these requirements.
Long-term View of Northwestern Campus and Discovery
Given its long history at this site, Northwestern is committed to its mission as an academic center in the lead of 21st century-research, teaching and clinical care. Simply put, this is the last available parcel at the core of the enterprise. Thus, Northwestern needs to effectively use this last available parcel to the fullest extent; this is a 50-100 year commitment to the future. What could be better for Chicago than to foster this enterprise to the maximum extent? The reward in terms of economic benefit is clearly there. More important than that will be the discoveries that come forth. We are on the cusp of great breakthroughs in research that improve and extend health for everyone. I can’t think of a better way to support this future than getting behind Northwestern’s bold vision for the future.
Please support the future with your actions.
William R. Gustafson, FAIA