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Study: Old Prentice Hospital Not Possible for Reuse

Consultants' study shows reuse as a medical research facility would not be feasible

May 25, 2011

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Renovating the old Prentice Hospital building on Northwestern University’s Chicago campus for use as a medical research facility is not feasible, according to a consultants’ study made public this week.

The study by Jacobs Consultancy, Inc., Thornton-Thomasetti and Affiliated Engineers shows that even if a very costly renovation were undertaken, the building would not provide adequate space to meet the  research needs of the University and would not meet the necessary technical standards for such research facilities. In addition, because the existing floors do not have adequate height, a renovated building could only use every other floor, thereby significantly reducing the efficiency of the building and dramatically increasing the cost of the research space.

Northwestern commissioned the study in order to determine the feasibility of re-using the old Prentice Hospital building, which will be completely empty this fall. Designed by architect Bertrand Goldberg, the 1970’s-era building has been largely empty since Northwestern Memorial Hospital constructed a new hospital that opened in 1999. The preservation group, Landmarks Illinois, has advocated for preserving the building and prepared a study suggesting it could be reused for residential purposes, office use or as a research facility.

However, the University does not have any need for residential or office space in that area, and the consultants’ study makes it clear that old Prentice cannot be adapted for reuse as a medical research facility, said Ron Nayler, associate vice president for facilities management.

“We asked the consultants to take a thorough look at what might be possible in terms of reusing the building as research space, but it just won’t work,” Nayler said. “The building has a number of problems and its configuration doesn’t lend itself well to adaptive reuse. As a result, it would be an extremely inefficient building in terms of usable space, even if it could be effectively renovated.”

Nayler presented the results of the consultants’ study and discussed the University’s plans for the Chicago campus at a meeting Tuesday night sponsored by the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents.

The stated goal of Northwestern and its affiliated hospitals is to create one of the country’s great academic medical centers on the Chicago campus. A key component of that is adequate space for research, said Eugene Sunshine, senior vice president for business and finance.

“Construction of new medical research facilities on the site of old Prentice will help us reach our goal of becoming a top ten medical center, and will help provide state-of-the-art health care in the Chicago area,” Sunshine said. “In addition, it is estimated that a new facility would bring in more than $200 million in additional research funding and provide over 2000 full time jobs.”

The University announced its plans to seek permission from the city of Chicago to demolish old Prentice, but agreed to a 60-day delay at the request of the local alderman and in order to complete the consultants’ study.

Get more information and a link to the full report at Facilities Management.

Topics: University News