Dear Rahm and Rafael: About that sudden groundswell of support for bulldozing Prentice



There's a good chance that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Landmarks Commission Chairman Rafael Leon are buried under a blitz of e-mails and phone calls about the old Prentice Hospital right now.

And most of those messages might be telling them to let Northwestern University go ahead and bulldoze Bertrand Goldberg's odd duck of a building.

This could be impressive.

It might look to Rahm and Rafael like the public suddenly awoke to the rightness of NU's plan to take Prentice down and build a wonderful new medical research facility in its place.

They might assume that this public is fully informed and acting of its own accord.

And they might think they have no choice but to obey such a spontaneous groundswell of public will.

So they ought to know that on Thursday, NU e-mailed a letter to members of its alumni association (200,000 or so strong) and, apparently, to anybody else on its various mailing lists, urging them to click a link or pick up a phone and send those messages.

The letter talks about all the jobs and money that the new research center will bring, and about looking for cures for things like ALS and Alzheimer's.

It doesn't mention that all those great things would also happen if the research center were built on another piece of ground, like the huge empty lot right across the street, which is owned by NU's sibling organization, Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

It also doesn't mention that many of the world's most respected architects are imploring Chicago to save Goldberg's unique building.

Rahm and Rafael probably wouldn't have guessed that that NU would ask its alumni and friends to pull the trigger on Prentice without giving them a hint that there could be another, better option—one that would save an irreplaceable part of Chicago's architectural heritage (for a different use) and still allow for a new medical research center.

So here's the letter:

Dear Fellow Alumni,

On behalf of the officers of the Northwestern Alumni Association, I am
calling on you for your support in a matter of vital interest to
Northwestern. Recently there has been some controversy over the
University's plan to build a state-of-the-art biomedical research
center on the site of the old Prentice Women's Hospital, which is on
Northwestern’s Chicago campus.

We urgently need your help on this important initiative. You can
demonstrate your support by clicking on the following link. It will
take you to a website where you can easily send your opinion to the
appropriate officials. Here is the link

This is a critically important expansion for Northwestern’s Feinberg
School of Medicine. It is part of our long-range plan to expand our
research facilities and create a world-class research center that will
enable Northwestern to find tomorrow’s cures and benefit people

For instance, Northwestern scientists recently discovered a common
cause of all forms of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Other research
brought about a new drug preventing post-traumatic stress disorder.
Last year, our researchers found a way to reprogram stem cells and
create a limitless supply of neurons, which eventually could be used
to prevent memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients. This is precisely the
kind of life-changing work that will be expanded upon in the new
research center.

The research center also would have an annual net economic impact of
$390 million for Chicago, create 2,500 new construction jobs and add
more than 2,000 new professional and high-skilled jobs.

An obstacle to building the new research center is a move to give the
old Prentice Women’s Hospital building landmark status. This building
cannot be renovated to accommodate the research center. The building’s
floors cannot support today’s research equipment, and the vibration in
old Prentice would not allow researchers to use advanced microscopes
and other sensitive equipment.

The old Prentice site also has critical adjacencies to our existing
research buildings. The ability of researchers to have physical
proximity to their colleagues is essential to their collaboration and
productivity. The University does not own any alternative sites that
could meet this need.

For more information you can access a special website on the
University home page. The link to that website is:

Also, please take a moment to "Like" this cause on Facebook at and to "Follow" it on Twitter

Thank you for your support in this critical effort.

Daniel S. Jones (EB61)
President-Elect, Northwestern Alumni Association

Comments (15)

Showing 1-15 of 15

Add a comment

Add a comment