Prentice is preserved, for now

Judge gives preservationists the chance to come up with a better case.

January 11, 2013

Preservationists seeking to prevent the demolition of the former Prentice Women's Hospital were dealt a severe if not final blow today.

Cook County Judge Neil Cohen dismissed a lawsuit brought by two plaintiffs: the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois (LPCI). 

Judge Cohen said a previous ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court does not grant him the power to overturn a decision by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, even if, as the Judge appears to believe, the Commission violated its own rules in making that decision.

The Judge also dismissed the Landmarks Preservation Council as a plaintiff in the case, but gave the National Trust 30 days to file an amended complaint. 

Michael Rachlis is one of the legal representatives for the preservationists. He said "the court articulated there was a problem in that process and it still allowed us to come back and deal with those issues."

Rachlis added "The stay is in place. If the case does not proceed forward in this capacity, in this building, there are appellate processes and other processes to be reviewed, down the road. This is not over, the court has indicated that."

Last November, the Commission of Chicago Landmarks granted preliminary landmark status for the building designed by famed architect Bertrand Goldberg but then revoked it in the same meeting. 

In rescinding landmark status, the Commission cited a report from the city's Department of Housing and Economic Development that concluded "the civic and economic impact of Northwestern's proposed research program outweighs the relative importance of maintinaing the former Prenctice building as an architectural landmark."

Judge Cohen's ruling today means Northwestern University's hands are tied for another month. The university wants to tear down the building in order to construct a new research facility.

Alan Cubbage, a spokesperson for Northwestern, said the university would "abide by the stay" but is "very pleased with the ruling today."