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August 24, 2012

Mayor Rahm Emanuel
City of Chicago
Chicago City Hall, 5th Floor
121 N. LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL  60602

RE:  Old Prentice Women’s Hospital

Dear Mayor Emanuel,

The question of whether to designate Bertrand Goldberg’s old Prentice Women’s Hospital as a landmark, and thus protect it from demolition, is a complex one.  Mr. Goldberg is indeed a very noteworthy Chicago architect who authored many iconic structures that Chicago should be proud to recognize and preserve.  The complexity arises when buildings like Old Prentice come of age and need a useful second life.  HOK is a strong proponent of adaptive reuse – providing existing structures a productive second life.  Adaptive reuse is ideal if the existing structure can be transitioned cost effectively to meet the new use performance and programmatic criteria.  Unfortunately, some buildings simply cannot meet those requirements.

Based upon Northwestern University’s strategic program need and their analysis of the conversion capabilities of old Prentice, it is clear that the existing structure cannot meet NU’s needs in many key areas (floor-to-floor heights, floor loading, vibration dampening, etc.)  It would be cost prohibitive to even attempt to modify the existing structure to meet these needs.  Additionally, in today’s world of leading-edge interdisciplinary research building design, direct proximity and connectivity among all researchers is imperative.  The old Prentice site is immediately adjacent to NU’s Lurie Research Building and provides for the best proximity for NU’s next phase of world-class research program development.

When we consider all the aspects of the old Prentice issue, we believe that while the structure is unique, it does not represent the best of Mr. Goldberg’s duly recognized body of work and that it is infeasible to adapt to NU’s needs.  Accordingly, we support Northwestern University’s position to keep the building off the landmark designation list to allow NU to use the site to meet their mission to attract and retain the finest research talent – a mission in alignment with Chicago’s goal of being recognized as a world-class city and a leader of innovation.


Dan Mitchell                                                           Todd Halamka
Sr. Vice President                                                   Sr. Vice President
Management Principal – NCR Chicago                  Director of Design – NCR Chicago