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Case for New Biomedical Research Center on Site of Former Prentice Hospital

Document details impact facility will have on life-saving research, healthcare, funding, Chicago economy and jobs

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October 3, 2012 | by Alan K. Cubbage

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University today (Oct. 3) released a detailed new outline of its case for a new biomedical research center on the site of the former Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago, with the plan calling for a new facility that “would be literally and figuratively at the center of research and patient care facilities.”

The 24-page document, “Finding Tomorrow’s Cures,” includes new details of Northwestern’s planned new structure and long-range plans for the area, an analysis of the estimated $390 million annual economic impact of the new facility, a discussion of the importance of the former Prentice site and a list of supporters that includes key Chicago-area groups such as the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Greater North Michigan Avenue Association and numerous labor unions, architects, business leaders and patient advocacy groups.

The plan also makes clear that, despite arguments to the contrary, the new biomedical research facility cannot be built on the vacant site of the former VA Lakeside Medical Center. Northwestern Memorial HealthCare (NMHC) owns that land and has publicly stated its plan to expand clinical care facilities on that site. 

“This document lays out clearly both the University’s plans and the growing support for them,” said Eugene S. Sunshine, senior vice president for business and finance. “Our goals are to conduct lifesaving research in a state-of-the-art new facility and, in doing so, create jobs, fuel the Chicago economy and ensure the health of Chicago-area residents.”

Northwestern’s plans call for construction of 300,000 to 500,000 square feet of research space starting in 2015 with eventual build-out of approximately 1.2 million square feet. A group of preservationists has objected to the University’s plans, calling for the former hospital to be landmarked. However, the site of the now-vacant former Prentice Women's Hospital is at the heart of the University’s plans, Northwestern officials said.

“The first phase of the project will be attached directly to the existing Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center and be connected on all floors to allow for the collaboration required in a state-of-the-art biomedical research facility. This can be accomplished only on the former Prentice site,” Sunshine said.

The new facility is expected to create more than 2,500 construction jobs and more than 2,000 full-time jobs when completed. The new center will enable Northwestern to recruit top scientists and thereby attract $150 million annually in new biomedical research funding. The total expected economic impact would be approximately $390 million annually, University officials said.

In a letter sent to preservationists last month, Dean M. Harrison, president and CEO of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, expressed strong support for the University's plans to build a new research facility on the original Prentice site while stating NMHC's plans to expand clinical care on the VA site in the near future. The letter notes that no parcel of land is better suited than the VA site for the expansion of patient care due to its proximity to existing inpatient and ambulatory pavilions as well as to campus partners. 

“Building new clinical facilities on the former VA site will enable NMHC to leverage infrastructure and equipment and to gain operational efficiencies, and not duplicate functions. NMHC plans to utilize the entire site for patient care,” stated Harrison in the letter. 

“We appreciate the thoughtful consideration and discussion of the issues that we have had with Mayor Emanuel and other officials from the city of Chicago, and we look forward to working with the city on the other areas in which we can continue to contribute to the Streeterville neighborhood and the city,” Sunshine said.

Topics: University