Groundhog Day: Landmarks Commission will vote on Prentice

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Wait a minute: haven't we been here before?

Late last week, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks posted an agenda for its February 7 meeting that contains a couple of surprising items at the bottom of the list.

First, they're going to consider a report from the Department of Housing and Economic Development on the impact of landmark status for Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Hospital building, which Northwestern University wants to tear down.

Then, there's to be a vote on rescinding landmark status for Prentice on the basis of that report.

Could the commissioners have forgotten that they already did this?

Have they been struck by some mysterious group amnesia that wiped out all memory of the November meeting where they voted to give Prentice preliminary landmark status and then voted to take it away, based on a handy-dandy instantaneous report from that very same department?

Or does this mean the commission thinks its November procedure was illegal?

And do they think this redo will satisfy Judge Neil Cohen, who's suggested in two court appearances (for a challenge suit brought by the National Trust for Historic Preservation) that they didn't do it right?

It won't satisfy preservationists. In a statement released over the weekend, the Save Prentice Coalition said, "The meeting and proposed rejection of a preliminary landmark recommendation for Prentice violate the Landmarks Ordinance. The Landmarks Commissioners must hold a full hearing on Prentice . . . and base their decision on the criteria set forth in the Ordinance."

Preservationists maintain that the commission is to base its decision specifically on the architectural and historical criteria specified in the landmarks ordinance, and that economic factors can be taken into account only by the City Council, which casts the final vote for landmark designation.

The next court date with Judge Cohen is February 15.

(Check out the February agenda, the new report, and the proposed resolution here.)

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