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Blair Kamin Cityscapes
March 10, 2012

Blair Kamin Cityscapes November 10, 20100

Chicago Tribune
November 4,2010

November 4,2010

Chicago Sun-Times
November 4,2010

Public Building Commission
Press Release
November 3, 2010

Blair Kamin Cityscapes, Oct. 20, 2010

Hello Beautiful! Oct. 15, 2010

Blair Kamin Cityscapes, Oct. 06, 2010

Blair Kamin Cityscapes, Dec 7, 2009

Blair Kamin Cityscapes, Dec 5, 2009

Letter to Editor Chicago Sun-Times

Joint Letter to Mayor Daley

National Trust Letter to Mayor Daley

Blair Kamin, Cityscapes, Oct 28, 2009



Press Release

Fact Sheet


Ten Most Endangered

Campus Architects

Email a Friend


Time Tells: A Better Plan

Chicago Tribune

Lynn Becker

Blair Kamin, Cityscapes



Reese’s Pieces
Razing of Hospital Complex Continues


The saga of historic Michael Reese Hospital took another sad turn in November 2010, when the Public Building Commission of Chicago (PBC) approved a $2.7 million demolition of Reese’s Old Main Building. The century-old structure was the oldest building on the sprawling Near South Side hospital complex.
The decision to raze the vacant six-story structure came as a shock to preservationists, who had been assured by city officials that the Prairie School-style building would be saved and reused, following the City’s $86 million acquisition of the hospital complex in 2009. The six-story structure, which was designed in 1905-07 by the noted architectural firm of Schmidt, Garden & Martin, had been rated as “significant” in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey and researched as a potential Chicago Landmark.
Yet, after just a year of ownership, the PBC voted on November 9th to raze the building, citing its deteriorated condition, a recent city fire department inspection, and estimated “stabilization” costs of $13 million. The latter study, which had been announced by PBC just five days before its vote, included $1.1 million for roof repairs, which had been cited as the building’s principal structural problem. Other costs included such non-essential stabilization fees as: new windows ($1.12 million), cleaning and abatement ($1.6 million), and $5.6 million in PBC and other design costs. After receiving and reviewing this “infeasibility study,” Landmarks Illinois asked PBC for a 30-day delay on the demolition action, which was ignored.
The only hospital building scheduled to remain—at present—is the Singer Pavilion, a 1948 structure co-designed by influential architect Walter Gropius. Seven other Gropius buildings, along with a dozen other structures and landscapes were demolished by PBC in late-2009 and early-2010. This action prompted the National Trust for Historic Preservation to call it one of the “worst” preservation stories of 2009. In December 2009, the Illinois Sites Advisory Council (IHSAC) had voted unanimously to forward a National Register nomination for the hospital campus to the National Park Service (NPS). However, this did not prevent the city from undertaking demolition, since no federal funding was involved.

Landmarks Illinois in August 2009 had released an alternative site plan for the campus, which called for retention of at least six of the site’s most viable historic buildings for reuse, as well as significant landscaped areas designed by Hideo Sasaki in the 1950s and ‘60s. The plan was partially funded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The reuse plan had been prompted by the city’s proposal to construct an Olympic Village on the site for the 2016 Summer Olympics. After Rio de Janeiro was announced as the Olympic host city on October 3rd, 2009, Landmarks Illinois and other preservation groups continued to press for a redevelopment plan that would preserve the site’s most significant structures, which had been listed as one of our 2009 “Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois.”


Landmarks Illinois president Jim Peters stated, “With the loss of the Olympics, we believe—more than ever—that the reuse of some of the Reese Hospital buildings is key for the sustainable redevelopment of this area. Although our Olympic Village reuse plan focused on just six of the 29 hospital structures scheduled for demolition, it may now be practical to save and rehabilitate even more of these buildings.”


The main features of Landmarks Illinois’ alternative plan for the Reese Hospital site were:


Saving and reusing a core of four buildings, three of which were co-designed by Walter Gropius, who—along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe—is considered to be one of the most influential architects of the mid-20th century. These buildings are grouped around a pair of open spaces by the renowned landscape designers Hideo Sasaki and Reginald Isaacs. Because all of these properties are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, their reuse would qualify for federal rehabilitation tax incentives.

Preserving two additional iconic buildings—one, a modernist Power Plant (also by Gropius) that is visible from Lake Shore Drive, which would become the focus of a public plaza connecting to the lakefront; the other, the Prairie-style Michael Reese Building and its gateway bridge across 29th Street.

Re-introducing the historic street grid back into the 37-acre site, which will provide sorely-needed connections to the surrounding neighborhood and the lakefront.

Construction of Olympic housing that, while conforming to IOC standards, could better accommodate its transition from an Olympic Village into a residential, urban neighborhood after 2016. This would include future development of more than 3,000 parking spaces, a connection to the existing 27th Street Metra line station, retail spaces in strategic locations, and three pedestrian connections to the lakefront.


The Michael Reese Hospital complex had 29 buildings. The main hospital building was designed by Schmidt, Garden & Martin in 1907 and is one of the city’s most significant early hospital designs, combining what were modern design concepts with rich architectural details. Recent research had revealed the design role and influence of architect and Bauhaus School founder Walter Gropius on the post-World War II expansion of the hospital campus.








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