On Oct. 19, a letter jointly written by "Concerned Citizens and Organizations" was sent to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, asking for immediate halting of demolition of more than 25 buildings in the Michael Reese Hospital campus so that the potential for a more effective and sustainable development through the re-use of existing buildings can be studied. The sponsors and signatories to this letter include some of the most prominent Chicago and national preservation groups, planners, historians, and architects:
Landmarks Illinois; American Institute of Architects Chicago; Gropius in Chicago Coalition; National Trust for Historic Preservation; Preservation Chicago; Society of Architectural Historians; American Planning Association, Illinois Chapter; Chicago Bauhaus and Beyond; John Pardey of John Pardey Architects, England; Gunny Harboe with Docomomo US; Dirk Lohan with Lohan Anderson; John Vinci with Vinci-Hamp Architects; and Kyle Normandin with ICOMOS-ISC20c.
The following is the text from the letter:
A LETTER JOINTLY WRITTEN BY CONCERNED CITIZENS AND ORGANIZATIONS
Dear Mayor Daley,
The disappointment over the loss of the 2016 Olympics should not prevent Chicagoans from realizing a great opportunity -- the world-class redevelopment of the former Michael Reese Hospital Campus.
We strongly believe that a key to the effective and sustainable development of this important property is a multi-phase effort that will respond to current site and market conditions. We also believe that the rehabilitation of the site's most important -- and adaptable buildings -- is critical to this redevelopment effort.
Consequently, we strongly request that full-scale demolition of this site not proceed for the following reasons:
--The loss of key mid-20th century buildings and landscapes, which were co-designed by one of the world's foremost Modernist architects, Walter Gropius, and several significant other firms, would prevent developers from using a critical funding tool -- Federal Historic Tax Credits -- that is available to properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Such designation of this site is currently pending.
--The reuse of these buildings would enable developers to begin a redevelopment effort immediately, rather than waiting several years for a large-scale effort to commence. Our analysis of these buildings suggest they could be readily adapted for numerous uses, including housing, office functions, charter schools, and many others.
-- Some of the most successful developments of large-scale sites throughout the nation have been those that were a mix of building styles and scale, where new construction was combined with the reuse of existing historic buildings. Two local examples are the Oakland/North Kenwood community and the recent redevelopment of the UIC South Campus, where reuse of the historic South Water Market blends with the surrounding new construction.
We stand ready to assist your development departments with a reuse analysis of the most significant structures on the site. While we understand that environmental remediation will continue, we would request that demolition of the existing structures not proceed and that, instead, they be evaluated and a Request for Proposals be issued for their redevelopment.
The redevelopment of Chicago's South Side has been an amazing transformation. We urge that it continue with a world-class development of the Reese Hospital site.
Royce A. Yeater
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Executive Vice President
American Institute of Architects Chicago
Grahm Matthew Balkany
Gropius in Chicago Coalition
Jonathan P. Fine
Society of Architectural Historians
Gunny M. Harboe
Recent Past Preservation Network
Benjamin Historic Certifications
Karen L. Stonehouse
American Planning Association, Illinois Chapter
John Pardey Architects, England
Chicago Bauhaus and Beyond
Director, Modernism + Recent Past Initiative
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Cc: Alderman Toni Preckwinkle - Alderman, 4th Ward
Erin Lavin Cabonargi - Executive Director, Chicago Public Building Commission
Brian Goeken - Deputy Commissioner, Dept. of Zoning and Land Use Planning, Historic Preservation
Patrick Harney - Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Mayor
Jacquelyn Heard - Press Secretary, Office of the Mayor
Chris Raguso - Chicago Department of Community Development
Patricia Scudiero - Chicago Department of Zoning and Land Use Planning
Linda Searl - Chair, Chicago Plan Commission