Northwestern mounts ad campaign against preserving Prentice Women’s Hospital

Driving home yesterday, I heard a curious radio ad: Northwestern University wants to build a new research facility and this involves rallying people against the Prentice Women’s Hospital.

Chicago has an opportunity to become a global leader in medical research and lead the way in finding tomorrow’s cures by allowing Northwestern University to build a new state-of-the-art research center on the site of the old Prentice Women’s Hospital. The geographical positioning of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine near world-class partners – industrial, commercial, entrepreneurial and academic – provides rare opportunities for discovery that few universities can even consider.

With the new research facility, the University would attract an additional $150 million a year of new medical research dollars, create 2,000 new full-time jobs and generate an additional $390 million a year in economic activity in Chicago. The new center would attract the world’s best medical researchers and go a long way in helping a world-class city find tomorrow’s cures…

Make your voice heard! Click to submit our form to tell the Chair of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks that you oppose the proposal to landmark old Prentice Women’s Hospital and that you support Northwestern’s new medical research center…

Beyond furthering research on cures, a new facility will create more than 2,000 jobs for scientists and technicians and bring in an extra $1.5 billion in federal medical research dollars over the next decade. Learn more about why this project is vital.

Northwestern is apparently going public in their campaign to use the Prentice Women’s Hospital site. As has been reported in the local media for months, there are a number of people interested in saving the hospital designed by Bernard Goldberg. Northwestern is fighting a monied group:

Less obvious is the primary source of funding for the preservationists: the Washington-based National Trust for Historic Preservation, which put old Prentice on its list of America’s 11 most-endangered sites in 2011 and has named it one of its “national treasures.”

Christina Morris, a senior field officer in the preservation trust’s Chicago office, declined to disclose how much the trust is spending on its campaign to save Prentice.

IRS records show that the trust held about $230 million in assets at the end of 2010. That amount still paints Northwestern as a goliath. But the trust’s participation would seem to deny preservationists the label “David.”…

The preservationists — Morris, Bonnie McDonald of Landmarks Illinois, architect Gunny Harboe and Jonathan Fine of Preservation Chicago — hired Eric Herman, managing director of issue- and corporate-advocacy firm ASGK. He’s also a Northwestern alumnus and former Chicago Sun-Times reporter. The team has worked to poke holes in a university poll conducted via telephone, which found — not surprisingly — that nearly three-quarters of those surveyed supported putting a new medical research center on the old Prentice site.

I know there is a big decision looming but I wonder about the need to take the fight public: as the poll cited above shows, how many Chicagoans really care? How many even know what the Prentice site is, notwithstanding the Bernard Goldberg retrospective hosted last year by the Art Institute?