Chicago mayor reportedly encouraged Northwestern to do a PR blitz to tear down Prentice

Conversation said to occur well before mayor announced he supported demolition

December 6, 2012

Cassidy Herrington

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reportedly encouraged Northwestern University to start a PR campaign in support of demolishing the old Prentice Women’s Hospital  – long before he announced his public support for tearing it down.
 
The Daily Northwestern reports the mayor's push for PR came in response to an orchestrated campaign by preservationists to preserve and reuse the structure by noted Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg.
 
The mayor asked, ‘What are you guys going to do, are you going to have an offensive?’” University President Morton Schapiro told The Daily ... “He said he was getting inundated with letters. He was just saying these guys are very aggressive and spending a lot of money.”
 
The college newspaper reports it was one of several face-to-face meetings between Emanuel and university officials.
 
“We were as surprised as anyone as anyone reading about the alleged conversations that occurred,” said Michael Rachlis, the lawyer representing the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois (now called Landmarks Illinois).

The preservationists are suing the Chicago Landmarks Commission on the grounds that it violated its own ordinance when it voted to demolish Prentice just a few hours after approving preliminary landmark designation – in the same meeting.

Preservationists argue the building is iconic and should be reused, while Northwestern argues it cannot build the kind of medical research facility it needs.

Calls to President Schapiro’s office to verify the mayor’s comments went unanswered.

The mayor’s spokesperson, Tom Alexander, said the mayor was involved in discussions with all parties involved, preservationists included.

“That was the sole focus of his effort throughout,” Alexander said in an e-mail. “At the end of the process, after hearing from all groups, he made his viewpoint known.”

Rachlis said the preservationists are more focused on the lawsuit than the mayor’s alleged comments.

“We don’t know, and all that we’re prepared to deal with here are the allegations in the lawsuit. And those we have confidence in and believe that those stand on their own," Rachlis said.

The status hearing for the lawsuit is Dec. 7.