Former Doctors Hospital (Illinois Central Hospital) - the UC backed hotel project-
Archive of a controversy that led to derailment

This page is presented by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Development, Preservation and Zoning Committee (Gary Ossewaarde, chair), and its website hydepark.org. Join the Conference and its committees.
Writer: Gary Ossewaarde

Return links: Doctors Hospital main page. Development homepage. Hot Topics homepage. Hot Development. High Rises and Condo Conversion page. Business Climate page.

Demolition of the structure began in February 2011 for the U of C Laboratory Schools Early Learning Center.

This page brings together reports and records of the Hotel controversy. One can argue that this solidified hard feelings and even directions of University of Chicago approach to communities. It is a tale of perceived entitlements and empowerments, sensed threats including to ideas about quality or what is interference in business, of "nearbys" and people looking at needs of larger geographic areas, and also of people trying to bridge gaps.

By early 2010, a combination of the University's decisions about what best suited its priorities of growth for the Lab School and, likely, decision to use for its own needs what it was blocked from co-developing commercially, led to proposal for a division of the lab school on the best available site within requisite space for expansion-- Doctors Hospital.

Meetings and Latest

In November 2008, a 39th Precinct liquor local option filed by opponents to the hotel project of White Lodging and UC impacted Drs Hospital-"DRY" by just a few votes. Ald. Hairston and UC VP declared the project is dead. The discord among neighbors and mutual strained relations with the University, and perhaps weakened stature of Ald. Hairston.

(White Lodging said it cannot, in its business model save any of the existing building, pay for grand architecture, or veer from its model of labor relations. White asserts this is the only viable site and the project was financially marginal and is only being pursued because of owner's interest in a business deal that would help the University, hospital, MSI and neighborhood have a hotel. The owner is a board member and major donor to the University.

At the end of 2009, the University decided to use the site (presumably after teardown) for and early learning through 2nd grade division of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. Since and object is room for further expansion, it is unlikely anything else will be put there, except maybe on a reserved strip at the south end. Notices to stakeholders and started and a public process was promised. Whether there will be objections is unknown.

About the former, hotel dispute:

When we see the argument embraced by both sides as between, for example, being a "bedroom" or "destination" community, we see that this is in many ways a fight over what vision of Hyde Park will, if not prevail, have some wind in its sails--without even defining these visions or changing words. Details.

University's position and hopes vs other community visions focused in Drs Hospital vote. As summarized from Chicago Weekly article, October 30, 2008 By Jiyong Han.

The article says that the initial extensive local objections were expanded by bringing in preservation and labor wings. Feeling they weren't getting anywhere, they turned to the local option referendum. The article accepts that approval would kill the deal. It quotes UC VP for Public Affairs Robert Rosenberg, "If the precinct were to be voted dry, it would severely constrict our options. The community has come a long way in building a consensus about development in Hyde Park, but this measure sends a chilling message to developers that residents are unwilling to collaborate on project ideas. [Many project opponents or modifiers and some Hyde Park observers think it's the University and its (and maybe some other) developers who are "unwilling to collaborate on project ideas."] Rosenberg also is reported to have said the critics were clever in focusing all energies into a single vote that serves as common goal. The University is apparently not even considering options if defeated yet, but concentrating on defeat of the referendum through house meetings and other means. It's argument is that there is a long public process before approval [never stressed before] that would enable arriving at the right solution for everyone--just vote this down and we'll work together. Rosenberg: "We understand how historically important the neighborhoods are to its residents, but we also understand how important development is to the community. The developers want to work in partnership with the residents."

Rosenberg and others point out how much the neighborhood needs a hotel and saying part of the problem is the concentration of surrounding populations and its increasing destination role--but the continued depopulated state of the surrounding neighborhoods makes the finances for hoteliers and other businesses that might locate here hard--benefits from client traffic is iffy. The University says getting a major hotel would jump start the flow of capital going mostly downtown down here instead. Butting against this is alternative visions of this neighborhood. But instead of talking about these differences and futures, it's become about who can get out the vote to ban alcohol.

The meeting in August, which claimed to be open to any ideas, was the first public since the previous July.

After what some called a long delay, a public meeting was held Monday, July 23, 2007.

Hyde Park Herald, July 18, 2007. By Yvette Presberry (This site does not necessarily endorse interpretations.)

The University of Chicago has given into public pressure to discuss the future of Doctors Hospital during an open meeting of 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 23, at the International House, 1414 E. 59th St.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) and Hank webber, the U. of C. vice president of community and government affairs, have both confirmed that they will attend the public session.

The crux of the meeting will be whether public approval will be given to the university to demolish 91-year-old Doctors Hospital, 800 S. stony Island Ave., in order to build two hotels and a Starbucks. The University unveiled plans last month to create a 250-unit Marriott and a 130-unit Fairfield Inn and Suites in place of the hospital. If approved by the City Council, construction could start by next spring. The hotels and Starbucks are estimated to open by February 2010.

The hotel proposal was first confirmed by U. of C. at a meeting on June 5 at Vista Homes, a residence next door to Doctor's Hospital. Visitors from Vista, as well as residents living behind the hospital on Harper Avenue, complained that the 15-story Marriott would block their views of the lakefront, eliminate parking for residents and contribute to noise pollution in a residential neighborhood.

Webber said the university needs a hotel near the campus to serve visiting students, professors and special speakers. The university has hired Indiana-based White Lodging to manage the hotels. Walker Johnson, an architecture preservation consultant, previously said the construction of Doctors Hospital could no be reused with the proposed hotel because its floor plans and design do not fit modern hotel standards.

The university intended the meeting to be attended by just vista residents, but after more people learned of the meeting, the activity room that held the meeting reached capacity. Several people were turned away from the crowded session. webber said then that another meeting would be held soon after that, but it was nearly two months before the meeting was announced.

Doctors Hospital was formerly known as the Illinois Central Hospital after it was built in 1916. Architect Richard E. Schmidt, whose architectural firm designed several Chicago buildings including Michael Reese Hospital, designed Doctors Hospital.

The Hospital was sold in 1960 and renamed the Hyde Park Community Hospital. It operated until 2000 before filing for bankruptcy and closing its doors. the U. of C. purchased the building last September for $10 million.

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Breaking News: The "dry" petition (more on)- challenge dropped and the referendum passes by 21 votes in a huge turnout. Cannot be reversed for at least four years. 39th Precinct liquor local option impacting Drs Hospital-"DRY" SO FAR LEADS 249-228 VOTES (19 to 21 plurality in 477 depending on reports. Ald. Hairston and UC VP say the project is dead.

The August public meeting, hard stand by White and University after

Everyone was watching the vote on drying the precinct, and know what will happen-- the UC says it has none no contingency planning, all was focused on the referendum. The lawsuit plaintiffs backed by the University were said to be considering subpoenaing at least 169 of the 288 signers and circulators/notorizers of the petition. (The plan to subpoena had created its own backlash as "voter intimidation" and was down to 17 circulators and notaries, then dropped.) In the end, after the judge had said the issue is genuineness, not form of signatures, the plaintiffs dropped the suit. (UC VP Robert Rosenberg asserted to the Maroon this was from concern the suit could not be completed before the election and to concentrate on the election- to help "neighbors understand what's at stake"; reasons stated by plaintiffs are in Oct. 29 coverage below.) The University and White Lodging held a number of open houses, as did opponents. Numerous mailings were also sent by both sides.

If the vote is 'yes', there worry that it will put as damper on development (in fact it could be re-voted for 47 months) . But there is a potential other site for at least a boutique on the radar (Shoreland), should that owner, Antheus, indeed decide to go that route-- More coming on the Drs referendum.

At the August 5 2008 community meeting held at Bret Harte School, White Lodging, the University and Alderman Hairston presented no specific concept and said the long-suspended talks were now reopened; they would take back the public's ideas. However, it was clear (and subsequently reaffirmed) that White would pursue a plan quite close to the July 2007 2-hotels plan, without keeping the old building, expensive design or architecture, or signing a neutrality agreement re: union representation. They said they have no experience with urban or in-communities hotels and the project is financially marginal, only being pursued because of the owner's relationship with the University of Chicago. They also reiterated that they are a private firm of one family; there is no opportunity for investors or residents to buy a stake or involvement in the project. Some in the community see the problem being in part that the university tied themselves to a single player with its own agenda instead of setting forth what they want and asking various firms for their ideas on how to achieve the vision. White, (vice pres. for development Scott Travis) did agree to release any impact studies done or to be done as the project progresses and to meet, for example, with the preservation or other stakeholder groups. Travis noted some adjustments made, for example to provide added shared parking.

There was a long stream of public comments, for the most part constructive, and expressing serious matter with the project, its financing, impacts and prospects. It seemed that the majority of comments were from people who did not want this project or where proposed or wanted it substantially changed, for a variety of reasons. But several enthusiastically endorsed it, though often with caveats. Alderman Hairston said there will be likely two, certainly one more meeting, the first to be scheduled s when requested studies and information and consideration of the comments as well as concept drawings were ready. (Some studies, White said, could not be done until and unless the project is to go forward into design.)

In September 2008, Hairston said White had not yet completed what it is to do or made its final decision. But White has made it plain including in meetings with Historical Society reps. and Harper Ave. residents that there will be no preservation, modification of architect, architecture or the plan, and no additional parking or traffic/infrastructure modification.

It was evident then and since that White Lodging's model does not have room in its business model for adaptive reuse (other firms have successfully reused historic or old structure, including for Marriott), fancy or smaller structures, any other site, or accommodation to local labor standards. Some say the University is to blame for dealing with just one player, who came to them, seemingly with a let's-do-business from a major donor in something for which the University and Hospital (and MSI and residents) have a clear need.

Given that, from all reports, White Lodging has seriously considered the above, public suggestions, and other suggested accommodations.

More on dry petition. Passed by 21 vote margin , no reverse vote possible for four years. (scroll to Oct. 22 for lawsuit description) In the latest twist, neighbors filed a petition to vote the precinct dry, having gained over half the eligible voters. Ald. Hairston and other parties called this trickery or at least diversion from Local Option purpose, by a partial group to get their own way against possible development good for the community. Those who circulated said the facts were given and the residents most interested and feeling their concerns have not been met have a right to have a final say- it's home rule check and democracy written into the law even if using a sledgehammer to do a scissor's job. A legal challenge to the petition was dropped in Circuit Court October 23.

The future? Probably the damage side was sustained even if the referendum were defeated (unless overwhelmingly). Would the hotel be built in either case given the economy and animosity? Peter Rossi is probably right that the University will let it sit and then tear it down, especially when market for some use (residential plus some kind of meeting venue) re-emerges. There is reason to believe that Antheus Capital and the University are already in discussion on the best kind of boutique hotel to include in the Shoreland. The University and White Lodging (or less likely another partner) could decide their relationship and the need is important enough to find another site that could be made as "ideal" as 5800 S. Stony. Or given the economic realities they could just let it rest and try in a few years. (There continue to be security issues, including stealing old medications from the building.) How big the damage outside the precinct in Hyde Park will be is hard to tell and to separate from economic reality-- or there could be none whatsoever.

Maroon take on passage, including by UC Assoc. VP Rosenberg and Ald. Hairston, on what they take as loss on the issue. November 7, 2008. By Ella Christoph [Note that there are differing reports on the vote tallies.]

Residents voted the 39th precinct dry on Tuesday, halting University plans to convert the vacant Doctor's Hospital at Stony Island Avenue and East 58gh Street into a hotel. Of 477 votes cast, 249 residents supported the ban while 228 voted against it. ...

"The referendum in effect killed White Lodging's interest in the site," said Robert Rosenberg, associate vice president for public affairs. Rosenberg said the University had been working with White Lodging over the past year to engage the community in discussions.

Neighborhood residents said their concerns about the preservation of the building, traffic and noise concerns, and the non-unionized status of White Lodging garnered little response from the University or White Lodging. "What people have ignored in the arguments against the petition is that none of the objections to the hotel as planned by White Lodging have been dealt with in any substantial way by the University and White Lodging," said former professor and Hyde Park resident Allan Rechtschaffen said. "They spoke as if there there was compromise, but there was never any compromise on any issue." "No one is objecting to a hotel. We're objecting to this particular hotel. And if we didn't reject this particular hotel with the referendum it would have gone up exactly as White Lodging wanted it."

But it is unlikely that any hotels will be interested in coming to a dry precinct, said resident and hotel-proponent Peter Rossi, a blogger for Hyde Park Progress. According to the Liquor Control Act of 1934, the referendum cannot be voted on again for another four years, and only if the required number of signatures is gathered again. "A developer who wants to come here will think these people are crazy. They would rather vote themselves dry than change.," he said.

The referendum was placed on the ballot after 281 signatures in the precinct were obtained, significantly more than the 150 signatures required to get it on the ballot. The international hotel workers union Unite Here worked with Precinct 39 residents to circulate the petition, and Unite Here hired a lawyer to help get the referendum on the ballot.

Both advocates and opponents of the hotel felt frustrated by the lack of amity on all sides. "I think we kind of view it as a 'nuclear option.' It's a way of blocking the project that is sort of disproportionate to the goal they're trying to achieve," said David Hoyt, another writer for Hyde Park Progress. "I think there will be a lot more suspicion or less patience on the part of either the alderman or the University to go along with community involvement."

Rossi agreed issues like parking were legitimate and should have been addressed more thoroughly by the University but added that issues like congestion and preservation were nonsensical. "There is no congestion at Stony Island. It's abandoned," he said. Rossi also took exception to the characterization of the hospital as a historic landmark. "[Neighborhood preservationists] could never explain why these buildings were noteworthy in any way," he said. Rossi expect the site to remain vacant and deteriorate until the University tears it down.

One pamphlet distributed by ban advocates featured the Blackstone Hotel on South Michigan Avenue, calling it "what the Doctors' Hospital could be," and a typical Marriott hotel, titled "Misfit." Opponents called the card deceptive and a mischaracterization. "The hotel which had been proposed by White Lodging is a monster that really exceeds all need by the University and the neighborhood," Rechtschaffen said. "A modest sized hotel would have been accepted in a moment," he said, but he saw the planned hotel as designed to lodge overflow from downtown as well as visitors to Hyde Park and the University.

Longtime precinct resident Raymond Kuby felt the University had been negligent in managing the building and had not adequately facilitated discussions. "We are well organized enough that in four years we can go back into the precinct an have it wet again," Kuby said. "If we have the University's good will, we wil go along with that process and have a new election.. In the interim, I think it would be helpful if the University would manage the building properly."

Hyde Park has experienced difficulties in attracting new development to Hyde Park in part because of its hard-to-typecast demography and because of some neighborhood activists' opposition to new development. fifth Ward alderman Leslie Hairston has advocated for much of the new development and came out against the referendum, pleading for voters to allow for development.

"I was disappointed. Now in light of the whole presidential election, we could've had a restored hotel -- a significant hotel for people to stay in -- and that's not gonna happen. What that precinct says is 'You're not welcome here.' The people are basically saying, 'You're not welcome here,'" Hairston said.

In a letter to the Hyde Park Herald, Hairston praised development in the ward, including the first drive-through Starbucks on the South Side an an Aldi's grocery store on Cottage Grove.

Opponents of the ban felt Hairston did not act quickly or forcefully enough. "I think that Alderman Hairston could have taken a much firmer position much earlier on, and she did not," Hoyt said. Rossi voiced frustration toward the alderman as well. "This could all have been avoided if there had been a better job of managing this process by the alderman," he said. "There's a lot of euphoria about our president-elect, and I'm extremely happy for our country and city, but this is the one fly in the ointment that makes it a little sad for Hyde Park."

Herald, November 12, 2008- passes by slim 19 votes. By Kate Hawley [These totals are higher than we had seen before, but do not necessarily factor in all absentee and provisional/challenged votes.]

Whatever happens on the Doctors Hospital site won't involve the sale of alcohol -- at least not for the foreseeable future. Voters in Tuesday's election came down narrowly in favor of a referendum to ban the sale of alcohol in the 5th Wards' 39th Precinct, where the property is located. That throws a wrench in a play by developer White Lodging Services...

Of the 485 people who voted on the referendum, 252 or 52 percent supported the ban, and 233 or 48 percent opposed it. The margin was just 19 votes, according to results posted Friday on the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners Web site. In total, 520 people in the precinct voted in the Nov. 4 election, with 35 abstaining from a vote on the referendum.

A problem with the electronic voting machines meant the results could not be tabulated immediately after the 7 p.m. closing of the polling place, located in Bret Harte School, 1556 E. 56gh St. The glitch was resolved by the following day.

The vote totals changed slightly in the three days following the electi8on, though the outcome remained the same. There is still a slim possibility that the results could change if absentee and provisional ballots still ned to be counted, according to Joe Scanlon, an attorney for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Election results are final on Nov. 25.

Greg Lane, a precinct resident who has been a staunch backer for the referendum, called the victory "bittersweet," saying it was the last resort to keep the university and the developer from ignoring the community's concerns. "There is a very strong sense here that the community owns this vote," he said. "We were David, and we beat Goliath. That's no small thing."

Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th), whose ward includes the Doctors Hospital site, said the referendum was "the wrong way to go about ... trying to work something out." A robust community process was about to get underway when the petition was filed in August, she said. The dry vote "really limits the opportunity for development for a period of four years," she said. Voters can put a referendum to reverse the ban on the 2012 ballot, but that's a long time to let the vacant building sit fallow, she said.

In the meantime, the university is considering how to move forward. "It's an unfortunate outcome, and we're evaluating our options," said Robert Rosenberg, associate vice president for public affairs. "I don't know where we go from here right now ... We didn't do any contingency planning, he said... Everything was focused on this referendum."

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Several bitter letters appeared after, including one sarcastic response to the airing of the linen in a Tribune editorial.
Here is what White Lodging wrote to the Herald issue of November 26. (Also in the Tribune). Philanthropic spirit behind hotel effort.

Given the recent publicity and in some cases misinformation about our proposed hotel complex on the Doctors Hospital site in Hyde Park, I felt it appropriate to communicate how we came to be involved.

I have been an active member of the University of Chicago Medical Center Board since June of 2005. Early on, I was approached by the CEO who was attempting to generate interest in building a local hotel facility to support the growing needs of the hospital and University of Chicago. It was felt that the lack of a nearby, high-quality hotel placed and undue burden on the patients, in addition to placing the hospital in a competitive disadvantage to attract complex, critical care patients from outside the market, as their families and friends would need value-oriented accommodations nearby. In addition to my own review, an independent study was commissioned and the results suggested that hospital-related rates would be too low to support a hotel.

During this time, my father was hospitalized and this personal experience reinforce to me the hardship placed on families when there are inadequate hotel facilities. Our family suggested to the university that if we could find a site that would serve not only the hospital , but the university and the community, we would consider building a first-class facility and absorb 100 percent of the costs and expected economic losses. If the hotel was profitable, we would split the profits with the university. We asked for a location to build a proposed hotel that would be consistent with the quality of the buildings on campus and be able to provide adequate meeting space for university and community events. We saw the hotel investment as one that should create jobs and be an economic engine, keeping and bringing visitors to Hyde Park that would otherwise have to stay downtown or in the suburbs. We envisioned our guests spending time and money in local retail establishments and attractions such as the Museum of Science and Industry.

While we found it impractical to incorporate the existing Doctors Hospital into the design for functional reasons, we made it very clear we were flexible on the exterior design as long as we could maintain a degree of budget constraint. We ended up with a plan to build a 254-room Marriott Hotel in addition to a 128-room Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott. These combined hotels could serve a variety of market segments from the value conscious guest to the higher end needs of the university for national meetings. Our total investment would have been appropriately $67 million which would have generated approximately $18 million in union construction wages and more than 150 jobs in hotel operations once open. Additionally, we recognized our business of hospitality is one that allows great employment opportunity for people in the community.

Moreover, at a time of economic uncertainty, strain on city resources and the expectation of increased taxes, our investment would have generated an estimated $6.4 million annually in direct taxes paid to the city, state and county ($140 [sic] million in in employee state income tax; $2.6 million in real estate taxes; and $2.9 million in State of Illinois taxes). This does not include any multiplier of taxes paid by our employees, guests or vendors on the monies they would spend or earn once the hotels opened. In addition to the taxes generated, we projected annual employee gross wages of $5.5 million.

Unfortunately, our plan met with strong and vocal opposition by supporters of UNITE HERE adn others, perhaps thinking that if we could not proceed with the project that it would hurt the White family and White Lodging. What they did not recognize is that our motivation to build was driven by a desire to continue with our philanthropy to the university and not a profit. We have many opportunities throughout the country to build far more profitable and less risky hotels.

What began as a positive gesture intended to provide long-term benefits to the community, ended up being ruined by the narrow and special interests of the very few who succeeded in canceling the project, ultimately hurting the community in the long run.

Bruce White, Chairman and CEO White Lodging


Hans Morsbach's response. Dec. 10 Herald. Mr. White: You left intentions unsaid.

In your letter to the Hyde Park Herald... you lament the fact that citizens voting the precinct dry did not realize the extent of your generosity to the university, your contribution to a healthier economy, and your willingness to work with local citizens to iron out difficulties.

I am sorry to say, but the citizens were not given the information to properly assess your plan and the information made public is still incomplete. I did not know of the extent of your philanthropic intentions and how they affect me. Do you suggest that knowing that the University Medical Center receives a large donation will make a bigger impact on my life than looking every day at an ugly building, or give you license to tear down a landmark? I wil have to think hard about the proposition. Do you think that when your employees park on Harper Avenue that I think that I think that is the cost of progress? What information did citizens have to lead them to a conclusion that you were willing to work out differences? If you had obtained the necessary permits with the help of the alderman and the university, what hope would citizens have to affect any of the plans? Can we still work out differences? An assertion that voting the precinct dry will kill the use of the location for a hotel is not a given.

As to any suggestion that the decision to vote the precinct dry is directed at you personally, none of my acquaintances were motivated by that proposition. Your intention -- no matter how heartfelt and generous -- still has to be communicated to neighbors.

 

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Everyone was watching the vote on drying the precinct.

Won was the placement on the November 2008 ballot in Precinct 39, Ward 5 of a proposition to dry the precinct in order to stop the University-White Lodging hotel redevelopment of the Doctors Hospital site. It is both praised as direct democracy using a neighborhood local option/home rule tool, and also opposed as misapplication for a purpose that only few think has to do with any likely deleterious or "destination" effects of inside alcohol service in a restaurant-conference center and would instead put a chill on development, period far beyond the site. Thus the debate is partly over NIMBYism on one side and University gorillism and assault on area character on the other. Visit Doctors Hospital page for background and full discussion.

South East Chicago Commission and the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce both oppose the referendum and support the hotel project while the Herald opposes the referendum but wants the hotel project revisited. Al Kuby and Greg Lane argued that an ignored community could use any legal tool at its disposal.

Judith Stein, who is a good friend of development, including a hotel at Doctors Hospital, a lively community and the University, decries the referendum tactic and recalls that at the latest public meeting hardly anyone took seriously any problems the service of alcohol in itself would pose; and thinks the petition was an end run. She recalled many good and responsible venues and developments would have been stopped if such a tactic had been applied against them.

Robert Greenspoon also opposes the referendum. He comes with different perspectives, having tried to stop Solstice on the Park just to the north of the 39th Precinct. His argument is also from the viewpoint both of misuse of a tactic and wanting the hotel project and commercial development in general. He contrasted concessions, albeit limited, won on Solstice from negotiations focused on zoning issues and consequences. He has criticism of the hotel project but says the vote subverts both neighbors having a real say and needed development. We should hold officials accountable for bringing all meaningfully to the table.

Herald coverage October 22, 2008. Lawsuit challenges the vote-dry petition. Prosecution claims 169 signatures are invalid. By Kate Hawley

A lawyer seeking to block a vote on whether alcohol can be sold in the 5th Ward's 39th Precinct will go forward, after a Cook County judge ruled Monday not to dismiss the case. The suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court on Oct. 3, challenges a petition to put a referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot about the sale of alcohol in the precinct.

Voting the precinct dry would strike a blow against developer White Lodging Services Corp., which plans to raze the former Doctors Hospital to make way for two hotels. The company has a lease agreement with the University of Chicago, which owns the property at 5800 S. Stony Island Ave.

The suit claims that of the 288 signatures on the petition, only 119 are valid. By law, the petition must contain 152 valid signatures (about on quarter of the precinct's 606 registered voters). The suit also claims "pervasive inconsistencies in the manner in which signatures were solicited and collectors." Chicago City Clerk Miguel Del Valle and the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners are named as defendants.

Greg Lane, a resident of the precinct and an outspoken opponent of White Lodging's plan, is also defending the case, after making a successful motion to intervene through his attorney, Michael Kasper of Fletcher, Topol, O'Brien and Kasper, PC.

By law, the petition must be contested in the circuit court by registered voters in the precinct. The plaintiffs, Stacey Kole, Marcy Schlessinger, Marshall Collin Wolfe, Meredith Durkin and John Clement, are represented by Shefsky & Froelich Ltd.

Kasper argued Monday that their objection to some of the signatures is unfounded. The suit claims that 23 signatures are invalid because they are printed instead of written, 10 are invalid because the signer used only an initial for his or her first name, and 31 are invalid because the person circulating the petition filled in the signer's address. It also clams that the 10 circulators of the petition should no also have signed it. The court should allow those signatures [Kasper argued], since the Board of Election Commissioners has accepted them in several other cases, Kasper argued. "The complainants are attempting to put form over substance," he said.

The judge largely agreed with Kasper's points. "What's important here is, are the signatures genuine?" the judge said. "It doesn't have to be cursive, it doesn't have to be the Palmer method, it doesn't have to be anything at all." However, the court needs more time to ascertain whether the signatures are genuine, he said, adding, "The case needs more development."

The court will reconvened 10 a.m. Friday in the Richard J. Daley Center, room 1706, when the judge is slated to hand down a decision. Since the suit was filed, he has urges the parties to move quickly so that the issue can be resolved before Election Day.

Lane urged Hyde Park residents who had signed the petition to come to the hearing, saying they will get a chance to prove that their signatures are valid. "Hyde Parkers will stand up and refuse to be intimidated by downtown corporate lawyers," he said. Kasper and Land said they had heard in recent days that the plaintiffs' attorneys were planning to depose and subpoena many who signed the petition [apparently since dropped]. A flyer dated Oct. 16 and signed by a coalition of neighbors and opponents of the Doctor's Hospital plan warns: "The challenger's legal team announced Tuesday that they hope to subpoena and depose many signers... We feel that this challenge is an attempt to intimidate residents, suppress the vote and stifle the democratic process -- for this and future ballot efforts."

After the ruling Monday, plaintiff's attorney Barton O'Brien said, "We are definitely not going to depose the signers." Only the circulators of the petition and notaries public who handled relevant documents -- no more than 17 people -- will be deposed, he said. O'Brien said he may also call an expert handwriting witness.

As the case has gone forward, University of Chicago officials have met at least twice with residents of the East Hyde Park precinct in order to "promote communication" about the Doctors Hospital issue, according to Robert Rosenberg, associate vice president for public affairs. He contended that the vote-dry referendum is derailing what could be fruitful community process about the development. "The worst thing to do is to use the ballot box to keep this from moving forward," he said. He was not aware if the university was footing the bill fo the legal fees in the lawsuit, he said.

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A Herald letter written apparently without knowledge the signers will not be deposed called for a no vote to stop a chilling precedent against democracy.


Lawsuit dropped: Vote-dry referendum staying on ballot. Herald, October 290, 2008. By Kate Hawley

A referendum on banning alcohol sales in the 5th Ward's 39th Precinct wil stay on the Nov. 4 ballot, after six Hyde Park residents who filed a lawsuit seeking to block the vote dropped the case Thursday. Their motion to voluntarily dismiss the suit cam a day before Cook County Judge Edward P. O'Brien was slated to hand down a decision.

They now face the possibility that the precinct will go dry, which could doom a proposal by developer White Lodging Services Corp. to tear down the vacant Doctors Hospital building to make room for two hotels. The company has a lease agreement with the University of Chicago, which owns the land at 5800 S. Stony Island Ave.

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 3 in Cook County Circuit Court, took aim at the petition to add the referendum to the ballot, charging "pervasive inconsistencies in the manner in which signatures were solicited and collected." It claimed that of the petitions's 288 signatures, only 119 were valid. The petition is legally required to contain 152 valid signatures, accounting for about a quarter of the precinct's 606 registered voters.

Chicago City clerk Miguel Del Valle and the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners were named as defendants. Precinct resident Greg Lane also defended the case, after moving to intervene through his attorney, Michael Kasper of Fletcher, Topol, O'Brien and Kasper, PC. Kasper, a specialist in election law who has represented a series of high-profile Democrats, argued that the suit's objection to 74 of the signatures hinged on unimportant technicalities -- that signatures were printed instead of written, that signers abbreviated their first names and that the circulators filled signers' addresses and also signed the petitions themselves.

At a hearing Monday, Oct. 20, the judge supported Kasper's position, arguing that the genuineness of the signatures is the only real issue. But the judge ruled against Kasper's motion to dismiss the suit, saying the case needed "more development."

The plaintiffs, represented by Chicago firm Shefsky & Froelich Ltd., dropped their suit before that could happen. Court documents give no indication why, and Barton O'Brien, the lead attorney on the case, did not return a call seeking comment.

Marcy Schlessinger, one of the plaintiffs, declined to comment on why the case was dropped but said filing the lawsuit was an important gesture. "We filed the suit as part of the democratic process," she said. "We thought we should demonstrate for the community what a serious process this is."

She urged a "no" vote on the referendum, saying the hotels would serve as an economic engine for the neighborhood and provide an important service for the larger South Side. The city-mandated public review wil ensure that the community ends up with a quality project, she argued. "I am very much looking forward to the 24-month-long public process in which the whole community, not just the 39th Precinct, can help White Lodging refine its proposal," said Schlessinger, who serves on the volunteer board of the South East Chicago Commission, a community-relations arm of the University of Chicago that tracks crime and development in the neighborhood.

The other plaintiffs were Stacey Kole, Marshall Colin Wolfe, Kathryn Kennan, Meredith Durkin and John Clement. By law, a case challenging the petition must be brought by registered voters in the precinct.

Lane, who circulated the petition and has long opposed White Lodging's plan, said he was "ecstatic" that the suit had been dropped. "The only concern we had going to court on Friday is that we didn't see that they had any case at all, so we didn't know what to defend," he said. Opponents of White Lodging's hotel plan wil be lobbying for a 'yes' vote in the next week, Lane said. Objections to the proposal have come from a labor union at odds with White Lodging, preservationists hoping to save the 1916 Doctors Hospital building and neighbors concerned about congestion and views.

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Herald coverage, August 13 2008. Drs. Hospital, take 2- Developer wants community input for new plan.
By Kate Hawley

After tabling plans to redevelop the former Doctors Hospital for nearly a year, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) told a packed meeting Tuesday Tuesday, Aug. 5 that developer White Lodging Services Corp. has agreed to restart the project, this time taking more of the community's wishes into account. "We're talking about putting together a whole package that says, 'This is how we do it in Hyde Park,'" Hairston told Scott Travis. vice president of development for White Lodging, at the meeting at Bret Harte Elementary School, 1556 E. 56th St.

"This is a learning opportunity for us," said Travis, who conceded that the Merrillville, Ind.-based White Lodging, which owns and operates 130 hotels nationwide, has little experience working with urban communities. "Hyde Park is a unique place, an people here want to be heard," he said.

White Lodging has previously clashed with some Hyde Park denizens, who expressed concern about a plan the company presented last summer to raze the Doctors Hospital building and build two hotels on the site at 5800 S. Stony Island Ave. Among the loudest objectors were preservationists, who wanted White Lodging to save the 1914 building, and a service workers union, which charged that the company has a spotty labor record.

Hairston withdrew her support last year but said that she's since held several meetings that persuaded the developer to approach the community again. The basic provisions of the original proposal remain, Travis told the crowd. White Lodging still wants to develop, own and operate two hotels. The company has a lease agreement with the University of Chicago, which bought the vacant building at auction for $10.1 million in October 2006.

Under White Lodging's plan, a Marriott Hotel and a Fairfield Inn and Suites would together include 390 rooms, a full-service restaurant and 15,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space - about a $70-million investment, Travis said. But the glass-and-steel designs presented last summer by HOK Architects have been apparently scrapped, and White Lodging hasn't yet presented new designs. "They come to you with a blank slate," Hairston said, opening the floor to comments from the roughly 200 people who crowded into the school's sweltering gym.

The majority favored development on the land, with a good number of people voicing strong support for a hotel. Others asked for jobs and other community benefits as part of the deal. In a shift from the neighborhood meetings held last year, many favored tearing down the building to make way for something new. "It's the ugliest building I've ever seen," said one local woman," said one local woman. "I personally would be happy to have a nice, modern hotel there." "That building is not reusable," argued another resident, March Schlessinger, who serves on the executive committee of the South East Chicago Commission, which is funded by the university, determined in a 2002 study that the building couldn't be adapted for modern purposes, she said.

Preservationist Jim Peters, executive director of Landmarks Illinois, maintained that the Colonial Revival building is not only salvageable, but that federal tax credits for historic preservation would make a hotel conversion cost-effective. He pointed out that preservationists have hired their own architect with a substantial portfolio of historic hotel conversions, who has shown how White Lodging's plan could include the existing structure. That plan "absolutely was not feasible," Travis said, adding that the building, though designed by notable architects Richard E. Schmidt, Hugh M. Garden and Edgar D. Martin, was not one of the better examples of their work.

And he tossed another, previously unheard into the mix: the hospital has an ugly history of discrimination against African Americans, he said. Rev. Dr. Leon Finney Jr., a longtime activist and president of the Woodlawn Community Development Corp., agreed, and put his hotel behind the hotel project. "If not a hotel, then what?" he said.

Others who attended the meeting renewed their earlier complaints about White Lodging's plan. Members of the union UNITE HERE Local 1 insisted on a meeting with Travis to discuss the company's labor policies, to which he agreed.

Neighbors contended that parking, light, airflow and views would be altered with the addition of the hotel buildings. Jim Mann, a resident of the 5800 block of South Harper Avenue, said that given the commercial activity of a new hotel would bring to the area, the city and the university should undertake a comprehensive planning process covering the area stretching from the west side of Stony Island Avenue to the Metra tracks and rom 56th to 59th Streets. "It's a good idea," said Susan Campbell, associate vice president for community and government affairs at the university.

Other neighbors, including several from the nearby Vista Homes, 5834 S. Stony Island Ave., asked why White Lodging hasn't yet provided traffic and environmental studies.

Hairston asked Travis to bring these* to the next community meeting about Doctors Hospital, which she said will likely be in mid-September. Farther down the road, White Lodging will show new renderings.

*We understand no detailed studies of the environmental side had been done as of that time, except the university's survey showing likely demolition and structural complexities.

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South East Chicago Commission sends letter supporting but calling for negotiation, Herald Sept. 17 2008

[SECC is largely supported by the University of Chicago but also serves as a watchdog.]

The South East Chicago Commission supports the University of Chicago and White Lodging proposal to construct a hotel on the Doctor's Hospital site. We believe most community residents want a full-service hotel in the neighborhood. Certainly, there should be opportunity for all parties to discuss the various issues that have been aired at public meetings thus far. We believe there is room for negotiation. White Lodging and the University of Chicago seem willing to work with community residents to provide a hotel that will be an asset to us and the residents of surrounding communities. The hotel will provide sorely needed jobs as well as convenient lodging for our families, guests and other visitors to Hyde Park and surrounding communities.

Many, if not most, Hyde Park area residents have complained about the necessity of lodging visiting family members and other guests somewhere north of Roosevelt Road. Now is the time to secure that hotel right here in our neighborhood.

While we understand that there is a move afoot to include a referendum on the November ballot to vote the 39th Precinct dry as a strategy to prevent the hotel development, we believe this move would severely hamper any future retail development that residents have expressed a desire to bring to our community. we hope that this strategy will be rethought by those putting it forward. We trust that our good neighbors will consider what is best for the entire Hyde Park area and surrounding communities before they cast ballots in November.

The Executive Committee of the South East Chicago Commission unanimously passed the following resolution."

The South East Chicago Commission embraces the development of a new hotel in Hyde Park and supports the university's effort to make an economically viable use of the Doctor's Hospital property that is consistent with the community's values.

Robert C. Mason, Executive Director

 

And the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce supports the Doctors Hospital proposal and opposes voting the precinct dry; neighbors disagree

Herald, October 1, 2008, by Kate Hawley

A plan to tear down the former Doctors Hospital to make way for two hotels has garnered support from the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce. "We approve of the general concept of building a hotel," said Greg Teague, president of the chamber. "If we're not attracting people to our community, businesses are going to leave -- that's what's happening lately."

The University of Chicago, which owns the Doctors Hospital property at 5800 S. Stony Island Ave., has a lease agreement with White Lodging Services Corp., which intends to build a Marriott Hotel and a Fairfield Inn and Suites.

A meeting of the chamber's board on Sept. 9 yielded a broad consensus in favor of the hotels -- and against a referendum to ban the sale of alcohol in the 5th Ward's 39th precinct, where Doctors Hospital is located, Teague said.

The ban could derail the development, which would include a full-service restaurant and banquet facilities. About 300 residents of the East Hyde Park precinct signed a petition to put the referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot, where it is now officially listed, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. Challenges must be filed in circuit court 30 days prior to the election.

In the midst of a downturn in the housing market, with the economy slipping every day, it may not be easy to lure another hotel developer to Hyde Park if White Lodging backs out, said Jim Poueymirou, of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, a member of the chamber's board.

Board members Joyce Feuer, of Joyce's Event and Party Planning, and Jeanne Spurlock, of Century 21 Kennedy, Ryan Monigal and Assoc., Inc. said in interviews that they are anxious to get a new hotel in the neighborhood and White Lodging's plan appears viable.

Greg Lane, a Hyde Park resident who has been active in the effort to get the referendum on the ballot, sid it was a necessary measure since the university, the developer and local politicians refuse to make a good-faith effort to listen to the local community. Neighbors have objected to the proposed buildings' size, scale and aesthetics, a union has complained about the developer's labor record and preservationists have lobbied to save the 1914 building. Its orange rating under the Chicago Historic Resources Survey would place a 90-day hold on demolition.

Preservationists last summer solicited the help of an architecture firm that specializes in historic preservation to show how White Lodging could use the existing building and still proceed with the hotel plan. Company representatives said the idea was unfeasible. Lane contended that the alcohol ban will prevent a development that many don't want - without hurting the neighborhood's growth. "Hyde Park is an attractive market for any developer," Lane said. "[The referendum] is not bad for development. This is bad for one specific proposal."

Chamber letter in the October 22 Herald

To: Our 39th Precinct Neighbors
Fr: Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce

The referendum to prohibit the sale of alcohol in the 39th Precinct of the 5th Ward seeks to eliminate a proposed hotel development at the site of the abandoned Doctors Hospital.

Passage of the referendum will do much more than that. If the measure passes, Doctors Hospital will continue to decay. We will have lost valuable amenities, new jobs, and expanded opportunities for business and tourism. And passage will kill future real estate efforts in Hyde Park. It will send a clear message to developers: Hyde Park is no place for new projects.

At a time of when the economy is ailing, when new jobs and new business are critical, the referendum to vote the 39th precinct dry is bad medicine for Doctors Hospital -- and for Hyde Park.

We agree on the goal: a more vibrant neighborhood with expanded job opportunities and more retail, restaurant, and entertainment venues. And we need more housing options and accommodations for guests, tourists, and all types of visitors.

In recent years we've made progress by communicating -- by holding meetings and workshops where differing opinions can be aired. Where consensus can be built.

ON NOVEMBER 4, PLEASE VOTE NO ON THE REFERENDUM. Let's keep talking and working together. That's the best medicine for a healthy community.

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Alderman Hairston makes one last appeal in Nov. 5 Herald, it was too late.

I am very disappointed that some 5th Ward residents have decided to join with people from the outside the ward in an effort to vote the 39th Precinct dry. I understand residents' concerns regarding the hotel proposal being offered by White Lodging and the University of Chicago at the Doctors Hospital site. I also understand their concerns to retain their architectural integrity of the hospital building in any proposal development.

That is why I worked to bring both sides back together at a public meeting, this summer, after White Lodging had walked away from the project. At the meeting, White Lodging tried to allay residents' fears by promising to work with them to come up with a compromise solution. Before we had a chance to see whether White Lodging would proceed in good faith, I learned some residents were circulating petitions to vote the precinct dry.

Contrary to what residents are being told, voting the precinct dry is not a bargaining tool, it is an end game that reeks of bad faith. Once the precinct is voted dry, we are stuck with it for at least four years -- until there is another election. No hotels or restaurants will consider moving into a precinct that bans the sale of liquor.

As alderman, I am also responsible for economic development in the ward. Starbucks did not build its first drive-through store on the South Side out of altruism. It took hard work to convince the company a 5th Ward site would be profitable. Aldi's did not decide to open the first grocery store on Cottage Grove Avenue between 35th and 95th Street because the company could not find another location. My office had to demonstrate an existing need and that it would be a win-win for everyone.

The vote dry referendum is not a victory for anyone. If it passes, some may believe they really stuck it to the university, but in the end the 5th Ward will be the loser. Not only will no viable development take place on the Doctors Hospital site, but 5th Ward residents will be perceived as unwilling to negotiate on issues where there are different perspectives.

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The Maroon (UC student paper) editorial board published this letter in October. It was reprinted as a paid advertisement (no attribution) in the October 29 Herald. It appears to express at least a semi-official position, although there have been much stronger and frankly truthful and not in-your-face cases stated for the project and against the referendum. [GO]

Drs. No. In actuality, if he referendum passes on election day, not only will there be no Marriott, but there will be no hotel -- and no substantive commercial development -- in the 39th precinct for the foreseeable fu true, no matter what the mailings promise.

Until recently, the controversy surrounding the old Doctors Hospital at East 58th Street and South Stony Island Avenue was relatively straightforward. The University wants to replace the boarded-up building with a much-needed hotel; this proposal, however, faced stiff opposition from preservationists who argue the Hospital is worth keeping for its architectural value, an pro-union forces, who oppose White Lodging the developer that would build the hotel, and its non-union policy.

The University and its developer considered but ultimately rejected these arguments. But now that the anti-hotel forces have lost fair and square, opponents of the project have decided to adopt dishonest tactics. In August, anti-hotel activists circulated a petition to put a referendum on the November ballot that would effectively block the hotel's construction by banning the sale of alcohol in the 39th precinct.

To make the case for the referendum, opponents of the hotel -- in this case, a union that objects to White Lodging -- put together a highly misleading mailer that compares an elegant, restored hotel on Michigan Avenue to a grungy Marriott situated next to an equally grungy used car dealership in who-knows-where. the implication is that we can have the glamorous, historical hotel Hyde Park deserves if we simply vote "yes" on the referendum to cut off alcohol sales.

In actuality, if the referendum passes on election day, not only will there be no Marriott, but there will be no hotel -- and no substantive commercial development -- in the 39th precinct for the foreseeable future, no matter what the mailings promise.

Sadly, the inherently deceitful nature of the petition and the stifling consequences of an alcohol ban threaten to overshadow the substantive debate over the pros and cons of redeveloping the Doctors Hospital site. The primary anti-hotel arguments have been previously dispatched in this space, but they're worth rehashing. The first allegation is that the Doctors Hospital ought to be preserved because of its historical and architectural significance. While an ideal world might accommodate the preservation of the Hospitals' fundamental architecture, the actual implementation of such a plan proved unfeasible both architecturally and financially.

The second argument rests on the fact that White Lodging's workforce is non-unionized. But if this argument wins the day, there will be no jobs, unionized or otherwise: White Lodging is the only developer who has shown willingness to take a risk on Hyde Park. The collateral damage -- on other potential commercial developments in the neighborhood and on the Hyde Park businesses that would not benefit from guests' patronage -- is also significant.

Efforts to block the hotel should be based on the merits of the argument, not a dishonest campaign in favor of a disingenuous referendum. If the referendum does make it onto the ballot in November, Hyde Parkers should vote "no" to support a hotel that would bring jobs, businesses, and travelers to the community.


University's position and hopes vs other community visions focused in Drs Hospital vote. As summarized from Chicago Weekly article, October 30, 2008. By Jiyoung Han

The article says that the initial extensive local objections were expanded by bringing in preservation and labor wings. Feeling they weren't getting anywhere, they turned to the local option referendum. The article accepts that approval would kill the deal. It quotes UC VP for Public Affairs Robert Rosenberg, "If the precinct were to be voted dry, it would severely constrict our options. The community has come a long way in building a consensus about development in Hyde Park, but this measure sends a chilling message to developers that residents are unwilling to collaborate on project ideas. [Many project opponents or modify ers and some Hyde Park observers think it's the University and its (and maybe some other) developers who are "unwilling to collaborate on project ideas."] Rosenberg also is reported to have said the critics were clever in focusing all energies into a single vote that serves as common goal. The University is apparently not even considering options if defeated yet, but concentrating on defeat of the referendum through house meetings and other means. It's argument is that there is a long public process before approval [never stressed before] that would enable arriving at the right solution for everyone--just vote this down and we'll work together. Rosenberg: "We understand how historically important the neighborhoods are to its residents, but we also understand how important development is to the community. The developers want to work in partnership with the residents."

Rosenberg and others point out how much the neighborhood needs a hotel and saying part of the problem is the concentration of surrounding populations and its increasing destination role--but the continued depopulated state of the surrounding neighborhoods makes the finances for hoteliers and other businesses that might locate here hard--benefits from client traffic is iffy. The University says getting a major hotel would jump start the flow of capital going mostly downtown down here instead. Butting against this is alternative visions of this neighborhood. But instead of talking about these differences and futures, it's become about who can get out the vote to ban alcohol.

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Group of Hyde Parkers state a case for a 'no' vote.

Letter to the Herald, October 29, 2008, by Elizabeth A. Fama, John H. Cochrane, Peter E. Rossi, Stacey R. Kole

Dear Neighbors of the 39th Precinct: As fellow Hyde Parkers, we urge you to vote NO on the Nov. 4 ballot referendum that proposes to make your precinct "dry," forbidding alcohol sales.

If this initiative succeeds, it will prevent a planned development of the abandoned Doctors Hospital site on Stony Island avenue into a much-needed hotel. The hotel will include a new restaurant and cafe, which will benefit all Hyde Parkers, and enliven a relatively isolated half-block stretch of our neighborhood. The dry vote could also deter development throughout Hyde Park. Hotels, upscale restaurants, bars and some grocers depend on alcohol sales. Who will invest time, effort and money in a neighborhood that could at any moment revoke a liquor license?

Petitioners have argued that the dry vote is a useful bargaining chip to extract concessions from the University of Chicago and the developer, White Lodging. But a dry vote is difficult to reverse: the referendum becomes law if it's passed, and there is a 47-month (four-year) waiting period before a precinct can vote on the issue again. A second vote in 2012 would require yet another signature drive to put a "wet" referendum on the ballot, and no one can guarantee that it would pass. Discussions with this developer will undoubtedly end, and the site will remain vacant.

If you're concerned about congestion, parking, union issues or the impact of demolition and construction on your home, please participate in the ongoing dialogue between White Lodging, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), the University of Chicago and our community, rather than vote to block this project with a local alcohol prohibition.

A handful of voters could determine the outcome of this referendum, which is important to all Hyde Parkers. Please turn out and vote NO.


The Maroon of October 28 published a letter for a yes and a letter for a no vote

Development a step toward safety [note- some doubt that increased numbers on the streets would make more than localized differences, such as part of Stony Island, although not necessarily all night-- similar to the mantra of "more lighting"-- and especially that the streets are "empty of foot traffic because of the absence of anything [for students] to do in the neighborhood at night, which isn't even true, and therefore of students filling them. Robert Mason of SECC was quoted in the earlier article on safety as saying having night life is unlikely to do much for the side streets.]

This writer said it is appropriate for the article on fostering safety to follow the "Dr Nos' (see above) on Doctors Hospital. There isn't anything to do so the students keep the streets empty. The writer says that the hotel with bar and restaurants "would go a long way toward populating the streets at night.... facilities could transform a long, dark, and empty stretch of Stony Island." If the Precinct is voted dry, development dries up and the streets stay empty, then blame the dry folks.

A last resort, says another writer

"In fact the referendum is a last resort for neighbors who have so far had their concerns about the ill planned hotel project ignored. Suggesting that those community members lost in a fair discussion with the University and White Lodging proponents is ludicrous. Hotel development was tabled in 2007 by Alderman Leslie Hairston after vocal dissent against the project in community meetings. There was no formal bidding process for the development contract, and it remains unclear why the alderman and the University would bring White Lodging back as developer this year. And, when I spoke to Susan Campbell....she admitted that in spite of the controversy over White Lodging, the University has made no attempt to switch developers, not even attempting to contact other hotel vendors.

"White Lodging has offered no concrete solutions for any of the problems that were raised in 2007. Residents are open and excited about the prospect of hotel development in Hyde Park, but concerned about White Lodging's ability to carry out that development. Self-admittedly, the developer has never built a hotel in a residential neighborhood, and the concerns over residents' local issues are new ones for the company.

In community meetings, precinct resident raised the following issues: congestion, the economic success of the hotel, standards of labor, preservation of the building, and architectural appropriateness. The University and white Lodging uniformly ignored these concerns. Parking studies were promised for a meeting in September that was never held; preservation suggestions to incorporate the existing structure were dismissed. Most notably, White Lodging public agreed to a meeting with representatives from Unite Here, the hotel workers' union, only to renege on that agreement multiple times,. once just five minutes before the meeting was supposed to begin. Calls for cooperative action were ignore, with White Lodging and the University dictating all the terms of discussion and action.

Moreover, White Lodging's labor record is abysmal. It is anti-union, has kept workers' wages far below the city average, and is facing charges of religious discrimination, following demands from company officials that female Muslin workers remove their hajabs before beginning work. In order to have their voices heard, a broad swath of residents in the precinct developed the petition for a referendum that would ban the sale of liquor licenses. The hotel won't build without a liquor license, so voting the precinct dry would effectively stop White Lodging's development. The referendum was initiated so that the hotel company and its University backers would be brought to the table* to handle residents' concerns when faced with the possibility of shutting down white Lodging's badly laid plans in November. Unite Here and the preservationists both provided support, but this is ultimately a local, neighborhood referendum.

It's important to remember that in order for the referendum to even get on the ballot, it required signatures from a quarter of the precinct's registered votes (about 150); 281 signatures were submitted to to the Board of Elections. Keeping in mid that many of these registered voters are students in Breckinridge and Stony Island dorms (which were closed for the summer), we collected signatures from more than half of present, registered voters. The ridiculous legal challenge to these signatures, including the subpoenaing of all 10 circulators and their notaries, was withdrawn when those contesting the signatures found no trace of wrongdoing in their submission.

No one objects to the building of a hotel in Hyde Park, a resource the neighborhood requires, but many residents do object to the manner in which this development had been foisted upon residents without allowing their participation in the process. The concerns were not "anti-hotel"** -- as the Maroon Editorial Board put it -- but anti-this hotel. The petition for a referendum was submitted with the intent to show that the community would use its legal voice if all other avenues of action were ignored. As those other options disappeared, residents of the 39th precinct were left with the referendum as their best hope for input into the building of a hotel that will be going up in their backyards.

The community's efforts to encourage good hotel development have been ignored by the University and White Lodging developers. Serious concerns have received lip service. While the University certainly can develop on their property, they also purport to be responsible neighbors in the wider Hyde Park community. And in the end, the need for development does no give the University permission to railroad through a badly managed project. A "yes" vote on the referendum is a legal way for the for the community to make itself heard.

[*Note, however, that once passed, the referendum could not be reversed for four years, so the project will be dead. **But many do not want the hotel or changing the character of the neighborhood-- see the letter below.]

Barry and Judith Kritzberg decry "outsiders trying to dictate in our precinct." (Same Herald issue as above)

It is curious that four of the five signers of the letters which have appeared on our doorstep recently, urging us to vote "no" on the 39th Precinct ballot referendum, lived outside the precinct -- one on Ellis and three on Kenwood. Judith Stein, of Ellis avenue, in her letter, characterizes the referendum as making an end run around the wishes of the community, but the referendum is simply a way of preventing White Lodging and the university from making an end run around the wishes of the community. She also presents the case as though it were simply a question of allowing or not allowing the proposed hotels to serve liquor.

The ballot referendum to vote the precinct dry (a "yes" vote) is not about alcohol, but it is a way of getting White Lodging and the university to take seriously the repeatedly expressed concerns of those who live in the 39th Precinct. Residents of the 39th Precinct have been doing what some people suggest we should be doing -- negotiating with representatives of White Lodging and the university, but the "talk, not compromise" attitude of those who proposed the hotel is what drove us to adopt the ballot referendum. The referendum is also, of course, the way for the 39th Precinct to express its wishes by the democratic process of voting.

Judith Stein also contends that a "yes" vote in the 39th precinct ballot referendum all of Hyde Park to the status of a "bedroom community," while a "no" vote will transform it into a "destination community." This is a false dichotomy. A "yes" vote will preserve the 39th Precinct as a neighborhood, where resident will continue to live, work, eat, sleep and even park in relative tranquility. A "no" vote may indeed transform Hyde Park into a "destination," but we would prefer not to bring the destination excitement of Rush Street, or Clark Street in Wrigleyville, to Hyde Park. Let's keep it a neighborhood, where residents stroll to the Medici for a croissant, or stop by O'Gara and Wilson's to browse for a book.

There are others who contend that they are in favor of the hotel proposal simply because the Doctors Hospital is an eyesore. An abandoned building is indeed an eyesore, but the almost 400-room airport-style Marriott's, with a ballroom to accommodate another 400, is not the only possible alternative. At Yale, for example, a 1961 building was transformed form a "tired midrange hotel to boutique lodging" with 124 rooms. ("A themed hotel comes to an Ivy-League town," New York Times, Oct. 15, 2008.)

The letter signed by Elizabeth Fama (of Kenwood Avenue), et al, suggests that the proposed hotels (with restaurant and cafe) will "enliven" a "relatively isolated" half-block of Stony Island. Indeed it will, and it will also enliven much of the 39th Precinct as hotel guests and employees scramble for street parking to avoid the charges of parking in the hotel. The congestion we all happily tolerate for the 57th Street Art Fair and the famous Harper Avenue Halloween night will not be so enchanting if, because of a hotel, we experience it 365 days and nights of the year.

It may be great fun for those who live on Kenwood or Ellis, for four to six blocks west of the hotel might be far enough away (though we doubt it). But if you live in the 39th Precinct, it may not be quite as much fun to be in a "destination" zone and, therefore we urge that you vote in favor ("yes") of making the precinct dry.

Letters support referendum and oppose the project, or not.

Ray Kuby in Hyde Park Herald, Oct. 1 2006. Don't fall for Drs Hospital false choice.

As one of the 300=plus citizens of the 39th Precinct of he Fifth ward who signed the petition for a referendum to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages in the precinct, I concur with Hans Morsbach's observation (Sept. 24 Herald) regarding the South East Chicago Commission's (SECC) Sept. 17 letter: reasonable neighborhood concerns need to be taken seriously in the future. The time for further "airing" of our concerns is past. Contrary to the SECC's extravagant assertion, the referendum would affect only the development of alcohol selling hotels in our small precinct. It would not restrict hotel development in any of the other 49 Precincts in the 5th Ward. The likely withdrawal of White Lodging might even open the door for other hoteliers to invest in hotel development of a small, attractive boutique hotel on the Doctors Hospital site (provided it did not sell alcohol), which many in the 39th Precinct would welcome. Or, in light of the current economic meltdown, the parties may want to reconsider their basic premises and come up with an alternative plan for the economically viable uses of this site, "consistent with the community's values." The University of Chicago may want to revisit its earlier efforts in 1994 to preserve the building and use it for a psychiatric center. Or the facility could be used for residential purposes, which may well be the highest and best use. But let us not engage in the false argument that the only alternative is the White Lodging complex or the vacant, boarded-up building.

The local referendum is a venerable example of direct democracy in action. The privilege of selling alcoholic beverages in any precinct in Chicago is dependent upon the good will of the citizens in that precinct. having this referendum on the ballot will give all the registered voters in the 39th Precinct an equal voice in deciding whether to keep the precinct dry. The local option referendum will be on the November 2008 ballot. Early voting for the 57 Ward is scheduled from Oct. 13-30, Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Jackson Park Fieldhouse, 6401 S. Stony Island. You do not need a reason to vote early. Bring photo ID. Vote YES in the referendum to keep our precinct dry.

Richard Gill says a yes vote will dry up options, reinforcing the message that HP is anti development and local enclaves will block any project they don't like. The dry option uses up any ammunition for changing the project and could be followed by something even bigger.
Allan Rechtschaffen says this is the last bit of leverage. Hans Morsbach says the action is only against the specific proposal and there should be countervailing views to the University.

Nearly weekly the Chicago Maroon runs editorials on the subject, supporting the project and opposing the referendum.

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Sept. 24 2008 Herald calls for UC to make "neighborly gesture," calls for signal of openness on Garfield Blvd., Doctors Hospital, Herald/Theater buildings, Harper Court; blames UC stonewalling for efforts to vote Drs Hospital precinct dry (which Herald opposes).

The climate created by the University of Chicago's (u.of C.) recent flurry of real estate activity and its stonewalling of those affected by their acquisitive tendenceies has sparked an unfortunate development, with opponents poised to vote the precinct that include Doctors Hospital "dry." This is a device that allows voters in a pr4idcint to ban the sale of alcohol there.

The Doctors Hospital controversy surrounds a deal between th university and White Lodging to build a pair of hotel buildings on the site. White Lodging representatives have recently returned tot he neighborhood to say they're willing to negotiate with the community about the hotels they will build -- but rejected pleas to preserve the orange-rated Doctors Hospital. The orange rating on the Chicago Historic Resources Survey means the property is considered historically significant. White Lodging needs to revisit this issue one more time. Other problems with the project include White Lodging's patchy history with service employees unions.

Nobody benefits if the property at Doctors Hospital is rendered virtually unusable. These unfortunate possibilities are signs of desperation by opponents of the plan and should alarm trustees and others at the university who understand the need for community cooperation.

Plans for Doctors Hospital, 5800 S. Stony Island Ave., represent just one of many purchases. Recent real estate moves by the university include the ouster of their developers of the Herald Building and Harper Theater, purchase of Harper Court and an ongoing series of purchases along Garfield Boulevard just west of Washington Park. What these purchases have in common is a lock of community input. Property is being bought in large quantity and the point of the purchases is either unknown or un discussed with any community up to this point.

Ignoring the community has not benefited the university, and now there is a risk that the Doctors Hospital property, once dry, will be unusable by any hotel developer, one of the few viable uses for the property in this economy. This, obviously, will not benefit the community.

Nobody is winning this war of disrespect. The recent purchases by the university in the area west of Washington Park where it has had no previous interest, and the lack of significant community inclusion thus far in its plans, will likely earn the continued animosity from Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), who outed the university's behavior there in the Herald. Dowell made public a letter to Robert Zimmer saying essentially that she would block the university's plans if the treatment she received from it continued. She clearly doesn't think its presence is benefiting her constituents. Forced to speculate, she suspects the university might be "land banking" -- purchasing the land with no intention of development in the near future. Nobody wins on Garfield Boulevard if the university ends up in a quarrel over its plans because of their roughshod approach.

What is required, clearly, is a strong signal to the communities that the University of Chicago will be open about its plans for Doctors Hospital, the Herald Building, Harper Theater, Harper Court and Garfield Boulevard and be open to input from the community.

The precinct including Doctors Hospital should not be voted dry. Dowell should not freeze development on Garfield Boulevard. The university, however, has to own up to what it's doing. Show without doubt that you are a good neighbor. Let us return to a more productive course.

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Prelude to supposed return to square one? In a letter of July 17 2008 to the Hyde Park Historical Society and Landmarks Illinois, White Lodging rejected their alternative plan, although not necessarily all possibility of compromise. Both sides strongly stated reasons for their positions and Alderman Hairston said her options were open pending the August 5 2008 meeting.

The rejection by Ald. Hairston in autumn 2007 had led the University to put the project on the back burner, saying the decision was "up to White Lodging." See Maroon January coverage for greater depth.
As of April 2008, the University's position was that no decisions have been made over use of the site or location for the hotel project.

Herald article July 30 2008: White Lodging rejects alt. hotel plan, Developer to give update at August meeting. By Kate Hawley

White Lodging Services Corp., the developer planning to raze the former Doctors Hospital building to make way for two hotels, has written to preservationists, saying their proposal to save the 1914 structure isn't practical or cost- effective.

Preservationists, who want White Lodging to convert the existing building into a hotel, dispute that claim. Converting historic structures for hotel use "is done every day," said Lisa DiChiera of Landmarks Illinois. "It is not rocket science."

A year ago, discussions heated up between the Merrillville, Ind.- based White Lodging, which owns and operates 30 hotels nationwide, and preservation advocates Landmarks Illinois and the Hyde Park Historical Society. White Lodging proposed tearing down the Colonial Revival-style building at 5800 S. Stony Island to make way for a pair of glass-and-steel buildings designed by HOK Architects to house a Marriott Hotel and a Fairfield Inn and Suites.

The preservationists countered by hiring their own architect, Denver-based JG Johnson Architects, which presented plans in November aiming to show how, with the addition of new construction at the rear, the Doctor's Hospital building could be converted to hotel with 380 rooms, the same number proposed by White Lodging.

In a letter dated July 17, White Lodging responded for the first time to Johnson's design. "After careful review of Johnson's alternative proposal... we have come to the conclusion that adaptive re-use of the structure is not feasible," wrote Scott A. Travis, vice president of development for the company. Travis argued that the building isn't ideally suited for accessibility for the disabled, and that rehabbing will be too expansive compared to building from scratch. The hotel rooms and lobby are "below the brand standards required" by hotel franchises that will occupy the space, he wrote. Also, he contended that a third of the site needs to remain available for the University of Chicago "for future use"- a plan he argued is best served by White Lodging's use of the land.

Jim Johnson, principal of JG Johnson Architects, said each of these items are successfully addressed in his proposal. "We showed viable solutions for all of that," he said, adding that White Lodging made the same objections last fall. Franchise hotels, including several in JG Johnson's portfolio, are often enthusiastic about using historic buildings, according to Johnson. "They lend so much character to a hotel," he said. He also argued that reusing historic buildings is more sustainable and that federal tax credits for preservation can offset costs.

Both Johnson and Travis said they hoped to move forward in the spirit of compromise.

The project will be overseen by Ald. Leslie Hairston, who backed off endorsing White Lodging's first proposal but has since remained noncommittal about the project. She claimed not to know what saying she won't know until Tuesday, Aug. 5, when the developer makes a presentation to the community. "We'll all get to see it at the same time," she said. ....

Jack Spicer urges community to come, speak up in July 30 Herald letter.

I encourage as many community members as possible to attend Ald. Hairston's (5th) public meeting in the Doctors Hospital/White Lodging Hotel issue next Tuesday evening, Aug. 5. This is an important community decision that will affect the neighborhood far into the future.

The important concerns expressed by the community more than a year ago still remain:

1. Diminished street parking and increased congestion at the southeast corner of the neighborhood
2. Excessive height and bulk of the new building that would block sunlight, views and fresh air movement
3. Mediocre architectural quality of the proposed White Lodging building
4. Questionable labor relations record of White Lodging
5. Unnecessary demolition of the historic Doctors Hospital building
6. Lack of comprehensive long-range planning for the important Stony Island/56th Street edge of the neighborhood that faces Jackson Park and the Museum of Science and Industry.

Whether one is for (I am) or against a new hotel in Hyde Park these issues need to be resolved in favor of both the community's traditional character and its future best interests.

On Nov. 8, 2007 Landmarks Illinois presented to the University, White Lodging, and Ald. Hairston an adaptive reuse plan to develop the Doctors Hospital building into a new, high-quality hotel. This was an alternative to the plan that had been presented to the public by White Lodging. The reuse plan was created by JG Johnson Architects from Denver, known world-wide for converting historic buildings into outstanding, successful hotels. By adding mid-rise new construction behind the existing building the plan was able to offer the same number of rooms and amount of meeting space while providing ample parking, containing most of the hotel activity within the hotel complex, and reducing the blockage of views and sunlight for neighbors. By preserving the historic building the developer could take advantage of a 20 percent federal tax credit against construction costs, a hefty financial incentive. and by adding high-quality new architecture to the historic building's existing presence the new hotel could be something we could be proud of. I believe the adaptive reuse plan best addresses the many important concerns of the community.

Whatever White Lodging and the University of Chicago wish to do with this property they must obtain a zoning change and be given planned development status by the city of Chicago. This process is entirely at the discretion of Ald. Hairston. She has the power to exercise leadership in controlling this project on behalf of the community.

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Ball in White Lodging's court? as rumors had new site being looked at, Ald. Hairston met with White to restart suspended project and pondered pros, cons of landmarking.

A Chicago Maroon May 9 2008 in-depth. By Aviva Rosman. [Ed. Note- Jack Spicer of HPHist. Soc. Pres. Comm. met with the Maroon editorial board on this and other topics prior to the article and, upon learning from University responsible persons say a response to the JG Johnson alternative plan is unlikely, released graphics of the alternate plan to the public domain. Alderman Hairston has since met with the University and White Lodging and says she will meet with the HP Historical Society before making any decisions.]

Doctors Hospital in question as site for Hyde Park hotel

While rumors continue to circulate that developers are considering moving the planned construction of a hotel in Hyde Park from the Hyde Park Doctors Hospital to a site south of the Midway, White Lodging, the construction company, has yet to announce it plans. "At this point, the University is waiting to hear from White Lodging services," said Susan Campbell, the associate vice president for community affairs, who would not confirm reports that the company was investigating other sites. "There has been some activity in the back of the building installing additional security sensors and lighting to keep the site more secure. But the final decision is up to White Lodging."

White Lodging's original development plan called for demolishing the 93-year-old building at 5800 South Stony Island Avenue and building a new complex to house a Marriott Hotel and Fairfield Inn and Suites. alderman Leslie Hairston rejected the plan, and in November, Hairston, University officials, and representatives from the Hyde Park Historical Society met with White Lodging to discuss the proposed construction. Members of the historical society, working with Landmark Illinois, an architectural preservation organization, presented an alternate design that would maintain White Lodging's plan for 380 rooms while keeping the existing structure intact.

"The plan was quite good, although White Lodging was kind of huffy about it," said Jack Spicer, chairman of the Hyde Park Historical Society's preservation committee. "Finally, the alderman intervened and said she was very upset because she felt as though the University and White Lodging were not listening to her concerns for some time. She said the community was quite fond of the old building and didn't want it torn down. It's a residential street, and so she wanted most of the action from the hotel to be discreet and take place inside the hotel. She also said it was important to her and the community that the labor situation be taken seriously," he said.

According to Spicer, "the understanding was that White Lodging would review the plan and get back to the preservation organizations who had paid for this plan, as soon as possible, by the middle of January."

The preservation organizations are now encouraging Hairston and the Commission on Chicago Landmarks to designate the hospital a historic building, Spicer said. The alderman must recommend a building to the commission to initiate the landmarking process, which can take more than a year. "It's a fairly serious, very methodical process," Spicer said. "We have an understanding that he commission would be receptive. But they wont act without the alderman unless it is a real emergency."

Carol Parks, a spokesperson for Hairston said the alderman expressed concerns about landmark designation because "there are a lot of stings attached o it." "once you have landmark status, it affects what people can do with the building," Parks said. "There's a potential that the building could go unused and sit there vacant for even longer than if the alderman works to maintain the building without making it a historic landmark." The alderman is not ruling out the possibility, but did have reservations about the process, Parks said.

In April, Hairston met with Bruce White, the CEO of White Lodgings and a U of C alumnus, to reiterate the concerns of the community. According to Parks, Hairston said she considered it a "very good discussion." "I can't say whether there will be development in the near future, but as long as there is open dialogue, we are better off than we were a couple of months ago," Hairston said.

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Herald May 7 2008. By Sam Cholke

Progress reported at Drs. Hospital

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) confirmed last week that discussions on the development of the University of Chicago-owned Doctor's Hospital continue. "I met with Bruce White [chairman and CEO of developer white Lodging], I reiterated the concerns of the community and we discussed that," Hairston said.

"We talked about the general labor issues and we talked about historic preservation and we talked about how it would impact the community -- we talked about al of those things," Hairston said. "It was a very good discussion." "I think that as long as t here is and open dialogue, we are better off than we were a couple months ago."

Susan Campbell, associate vice president and director of the university Office of Community Affairs, said the university is in the same position as the community: watching and waiting for developments in the alderman's ongoing discussions with White Lodging.

The university will be doing some small improvements in the coming weeks, Campbell said. The work will consist of installing lighting and securing access to the building to improve safety at the site until development can begin, she said.

No deadlines have been imposed on the discussions and the university will continue to be patient while the dialogue continues, Campbell said. Hairston said the university has continued to be patient with the process.

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Doctors Hospital placed on landmark watch list by Landmarks Illinois, alternative plan to be rolled out by LI, architect in early October.

Hyde Park Herald, September 26, 2007. By Georgia Geis.

Doctor's Hospital, 5800 S. Stony Island Ave., is among 13 sites on Landmarks Illinois' sixth annual Chicagoland Watch List. David Bahlman, president of Landmarks Illinois (LI), announced the watch list, which indicates their current advocacy efforts to save historically significant buildings throughout Chicago, last Thursday.

The proposed demolition of Doctor's Hospital, formerly the Illinois Central Hospital, has sparked a community debate since the University of Chicago (U. of C.) and the hospitality company White Lodging recently announced they planned to tear down the 93-year-old structure to build a 250-unit Marriott and a 130-unit Fairfield Inn.

"This [announcement] ups the ante against demolition," said Hyde Park Historical society (HPHS) President Carol Bradford. "It affirms our opinion [Doctors Hospital] should be saved."

LI an HPHS have secured a preservation-oriented architect to draft plans for a hotel using the existing building. The plans will be revealed during the first week in October and will provide for the same number of rooms and parking spaces as White Lodging's existing plans, which Bahlman called "mundane and pedestrian.""Doctor's Hospital is a really remarkable structure," said Bahlman.

Bahlman said it would be environmentally responsible for the university to reuse the building for new use, taking advantage of the "wonderful" materials and craftsmanship of the building.

Hank Webber, vice-president of the university's Department of Community and Government Affairs, said, although the university and the preservation groups have distinctly different opinions about the historical importance of the hospital building, they were anticipating seeing the alternative plans.""I think it is clear the preservation community is concerned about the future of this building," said Webber. "We look forward to seeing [the alternative plans]."

Another hospital built by Schmidt, Garden and Martin in the early 190s, Michael Reese Hospital, also made the watch list. This Prairie Style building at 29th Street and Ellis Avenue is threatened by the sale and consolidation of the entire hospital complex a part of Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympics.

Also in the Fifth Ward, St. Laurence Church and Rectory made the watch list. The church at 7148 S. Dorchester Ave. was build in 1911 and was closed by the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2002.

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University, White, Ald. Hairston shown alternative Drs Hospital plan in mid November; Ald. Hairston rejects original plan. "There is no structure that can be agreed upon. Says there are more viable options than original; must be built with community and preservation in mind.

Hyde Park Herald, November 21, 2007. By Yvette Presberry

The University of Chicago (U. of C.) and hospitality company White Lodging's plan first introduced in July to replace the 93-year-0ld Doctors Hospital, 5800 S. stony Island Ave., with two large-scale hotels is virtually at a standstill with Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) rejecting the current rendering.

"There is no need for a public meeting when there is not even a physical structure that can be agreed upon," said Hairston.

Last week, the architect secured by the preservation advocacy group Landmarks Illinois and the Hyde Park Historical Society presented an alternative plan that would save the orange-rated building and provide for the same number of hotel guests and businesses, Hairston, who saw the presentation along with representatives from the U. of C. and White Lodging, said the plan demonstrated that there were more viable options than the one White Lodging has provided.

"It is a structure that should be built with the community in mind and with preservation in mind," said Hairston, who said she felt White Lodging was not listening to Hyde Parkers.

Susan Campbell, associate vice President of the U. of C.'s Office of Community and Government Affairs, agreed that community input was important to move forward. "We are committed to bringing all parties together to address their interests and concerns and to reach a resolution that will be beneficial to all," Campbell said in a statement.

Hairston also questioned White Lodging's labor practices and said, "If White Lodging decided to leave, it would not necessarily be a bad thing."

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Hyde Park Historical Society nominates the Hospital for landmark status in June 2008

Jack Spicer says the CCL Program Committee was very favorable to proposed designation, but it will not advance without the alderman's support.

Hyde Park Herald, June 18, 2008. By Kate Hawley

A preservationist group has made a formal request to designate Doctor's Hospital a city landmark. Jack Spicer, representing the Hyde Park Historical Society, made the pitch Thursday, June 5 before the Program Committee of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.

The committee considers landmark requests from the public twice a year, in June and December. It forwards the requests to the Department of Planning and Development, which decides whether or not to act on them. Preservationists have long sought to save Doctor's Hospital, located at 800 S. Stony Island Ave. The building is rated orange in the city's Historic Resources survey, which puts a hold on demolition for 90 days after the request for a permit.

The University of Chicago bought the Doctors Hospital site for $10.1 million in October 2006, with a plan to tear down the vacant building to make way for a hotel and conference center. It hired developer White Lodging Services to build a Marriott Hotel and Fairfield Inn and Suites.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) rejected the plan, saying she had concerns about White Lodging's labor record and preserving the historic structure. In the meantime, the Hyde Park Historical Society and the preservation group Landmarks Illinois developed their own plan, retaining Denver-based architect J. G. Johnson to design a hotel that preserved much of the original building while accommodating 380 rooms -- the same number called for under White Lodging's plan.

Since Johnson's plans were presented in November, discussions on the redevelopment of Doctor's Hospital have come to a standstill. However, Hairston said she has met in recent weeks with Bruce White, head of White Lodging. "I have expressed to him my desire to have th front portion [of the building] preserved in some way," she said. "I think there are historically significant portions of Doctor's Hospital that should be considered."

However, she stopped short of giving her support for landmark designation, saying she has not yet met with members of the Hyde Park Historical Society. "I haven't had an opportunity to sit down with them," she said. Hairston's spokeswoman, Carol Parks, told the Chicago Maroon, the university's student newspaper, "Once you have landmark status, it effects what people can do with the building. There's a potential that the building could go unused and sit there for even longer than if the alderman works to maintain the building without making it a historic landmark."

 

Jack Spicer to HPKCC Development Committee December 2007

Doctors Hospital, [University's process was] not so good. Instead of creating an RFP based on the recognized need for a hotel and the realities of the existing building, the site and the surrounding neighborhood, they started with a chosen developer. Bad process, bad result. The neighborhood needs a hotel, probably 2 or 3 of them, and the Doctors Hospital site would be just fine if it were a good hotel project being proposed. The White Lodging/HOK concept was too tall, too busy, too boring and demolishes the existing hospital building to absolutely no advantage. Landmarks Illinois has commissioned an award-winning hotel architecture firm to develop a plan that uses the existing building, has high-quality new construction added, is quiet on the street, and is shorter - all this using the White Lodging's own specifications and with up to 20% of the construction costs being offset by preservation credits. The University is reviewing the alternate proposal and other hotel developers have expressed interest in taking over the project using the preservation architects' approach.

 

Maroon coverage of where it's at in January 2008.
January 15, By Aviva Rosman. (Note, in an editorial the paper says that the alternative plan should be fully considered but Ald. Hairston should withdraw her objection to a nonunion shop.)

After a meeting last November regarding plans to replace the Hyde Park Doctors Hospital with a hotel and conference center, the University is awaiting the evaluation of the site's developer, White Lodging Services, of an alternative plan proposed by community activists that would preserve the 93-year-old building.

White's original plan for t he site at 5800 South Stony Island Avenue called for the company to demolish the current structure and build a brand new complex that would house a Marriott Hotel and Fairfield Inn and Suites, but Alderman Leslie Hairston rejected th e plan, expressing concerns about the historical significance of the building and the development company's history of not allowing employee union organization. The University paid $10.1 million for the site in October 2006 with the intention of bringing a hotel and conference center to Hyde Park, which lacks either type of facility.

At the November meeting, representatives from the Hyde Park Historical Society, working in conjunction with Landmark[s] Illinois, an architectural preservation organization, presented their alternative. The proposal was developed by Denver-based architect J. G. Johnson and maintains White's initial specification of 380 rooms while keeping the original structure intact.

"(The Doctors Hospital) is a structure that should be built with the community in mind and with preservation in mind," Hairston said in the Hyde Park Herald.

Susan Campbell, associate vice president for community affairs, said that t he University's role is to "facilitate as many conversations as necessary." "We're interested in making sure that White Lodging and the preservationists can get together, but the final decision is up to White Lodging," she said.

White Lodging was granted development rights to the site last September partly, administrators have said, because it is one of the only hotel operators to risk a development in Hyde Park. Because of this, the decision of whether to adopt the alternative proposal rests in the hands of the development company, although Hairston ultimately must approve the project because of the building's historic status and the possibility that it will require zoning changes. But a decision cannot be made until White indicates its intentions. "We need to hear their decision before we decide on the next step," Campbell said.

Last September, vice president for community and government affairs Hank Webber said in an e-mail interview that "we have been approached by many hotel operators, but no [other] deal has ever come to fruition primarily due to perceptions of the weakness of the market."

Still, there are close financial ties between White Lodging and the University. Billionaire Dean White and his son, Bruce White, the owners of White Lodging, are considered "Friends of the University" by the Alumni House. Bruce white has been a trustee of the University of Chicago Hospitals and served as both co-chairman of the U of C Children's Hospital and a member of the Hospital's executive committee. According to the hospitals' 2004 annual report, White Lodging donated between $250,000 and $999,999 to the University.

Campbell said that the University ultimately want to see a project that can be successful. "A hotel is definitely needed in Hyde Park," she said. "We're anxious to see how this might pan out, but unfortunately we're not in a position to drive the process."

Jack Spicer, chairman of the Hyde Park Historical Society's preservation committee, said the Society also submitted a study by a consultant showing that by saving the existing structure, the University might receive grants and tax advantages that could cover up to 20 percent of the project. "The building is important to local residents- it's part of their lives," he said. "Working to keep the Doctors Hospital is a gesture of respect to the community. It says this is your building, let's work with it."

"I think the main issue for us is not whether or not there is a hotel in Hyde Park, but what eh working conditions, salaries, and benefits of all workers in the hotel are," said Jack Lesniewski, a volunteer from Unite Her Local 1, a Hyde Park-based union group. "White Lodging has consistently worked to undermine the quality of life, right to free association, and right to free exercise of religion of its workers in its hotels. It would be a shame if they were rewarded for that behavior with a lucrative hotel lease in Hyde Park," he added. [Alderman Hairston seemed to be coming around to a similar position.]

Although Campbell did not comment on the allegations against White Lodging, she said that the company is working to "put together a response" to the community's concerns. She added that after the University addresses the labor issues, it will then determine "if there is a project there." "Then we will speak with the alderman and all of these different parties to talk through different ideas," Campbell said. Top

 


Background

At a meeting between neighbors and the University after the July 23 meeting, the University indicated it is serious about studying and resolving the parking and traffic issues and is that there may be modifications to the building. The University is adamant that the green space to the south is only temporary and will almost certainly be built upon- thus dashing the apparent hopes of some neighbors that putting a long term hold on its development could point to a resolution.

Sets of neighbors organized on several fronts re Doctors Hospital; some may commission an engineering study and or take other actions.
Hyde Park Historical Society sent a public letter calling for preservation reuse and a high quality for any new buildings.
Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference sent a letter (before announcement of plans) seeking preservation and open process.
Landmarks Illinois is hiring a preservation architectural team to come up with viable alternatives; HPHS is supporting.
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks is said to taking a very close look at the proposal to demolish an Orange-rated building and may oppose it.

June 5: Residents of Vista Homes and other neighbors got a look at plans for hotel and dining/entertainment complex the University of Chicago plans to build at 5800 S. Stony Island. Presenters: Hank Webber, UC Vice President Community and Government Affairs; Susan Campbell, Asst. VP; Scott Travis, White Lodging Inc.; Jack George, Daley and George, atty's for guiding planned development through Chicago Plan Commission including under Lakefront Protection Ordinance; Walker Johnson of Johnson Lasky Architects supporting demolition; Todd Halamka, HOK Architects.

This complex would be part of an explicit change in the character of the street and corridor the University says it hopes to see. (The commercial complex would also be part of a Special Service Tax district set up by Ald. Hairston.) The University plans to tear down the entire present complex (their preservation architect saying it is not a distinguished representation of Schmidt, Garden work and is expendable despite its Orange designation by the city structure survey. Walker Johnson, consultant, said it was not possible to use the old building due to masonry construction, ceiling heights, and floorplans--it does not fit modern hotel standards: "I's only as good as an early 20th century hospital." The Marriott chain is known for not using or building behind other structures, preferring to erect new structures, self contained, according to a template. 170 feet of length to the south will be landscaped and banked for future use by the University.

[The rendering below has been modified since, but not dramatically. Ed, GO]

Rendering of Doctors Hospital hotel/conference center replacement prop. 2007.  Halamka Arch, U o C. Hyde Park Herald

The University will build two classes of hotel with three dining facilities and a ballroom, including a 15-story Marriott tower for 250 units (the height of Vista Homes, 5544 S. Stony Island), a shorter 130-unit Fairfield Inn tower, to the north (both close to the street) and low rise sections between including a Starbucks. In addition, two restaurants are included. The complex would be run by White Lodgings Services. (Bruce White is a major donor to the University and has served on the Hospitals board. The company has been involved in controversy elsewhere over its labor record.) Entry and exit for the facility and underground parking would be close together on Stony Island; one would drive around a square formed by the complex. The southern two thirds of the site will remain vacant and landscaped for now, one guesses eventually to be graduate housing). The main complex will be set back just 40 feet from the sidewalk. Only 230 parking spaces will be provided. Construction is slated to begin spring 2008 and opening in February 2010. The plans seemed quite developed and unlikely to be significantly altered, especially since the Daley firm has been brought in.

Hank Webber is reported in the Herald as saying the complex "will enliven a street that has value." architect Todd Halamka said, "We're bringing the building back, down to the sidewalk and let people, in a porous way, come in and out. It's going to have a neighborhood feel." They also said no preference will be given to those with U of C affiliation.

We hear that more parking is being added.

Neighbors were reported to be quite upset, some apparently with these plans described by some as boring-with the Fairfield shown with protruding window a/cs-- and a diminution compared to the present structure). However, the Marriott in rendering in the paper, while generic seems to have clean and lines, be muted, and contextual with vista Homes. Others opposed any redevelopment of the site, or loss of views, potential for noise, traffic, activity and less than one-for-one parking parking. The other concern was with change of character of the street--some said later that the University should do something else here (residential with graduate student housing?) and put the hotel/conference center back where it planned to, 60th and Stony Island, a gateway where it would help revitalize that part of Stony Island. Former Ald. Leon Despres, a Vista Homes resident, opposed the hotel concept. He is quoted by the Herald as saying "It seems to me it not only overcrowds the site but it also commercializes the street." Neighbors do want some development behind Doctors Hospital as it is a crime site.

A summarization of key concerns or reservations this site has heard:

By Gary Ossewaarde

Alderman Hairston says the plan is not yet fleshed out enough for her to take a position on it. A knowledgeable source told this site that the key deciding factor, if there is anything to be decided, is the position of the alderman. Indeed the city department and commissions do generally defer to the position of the relevant alderman.

Larger meetings will be scheduled in the near future.

Also important is the question of sustainability in demolishing vs recycling buildings. See:

http://www.alternativesjournal.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=295&Itemid=1

What the Conference has said on the matter (will appear also in August Reporter, 2007 No. 2.)


The Conference has written to the University stating our interest in seeing the older building preserved if possible, and calling for extensive community input before any decisions are set in concrete. We ask them to follow a similar, inclusive process as they used with the Harper Court Theater.

Open Letter from HPKCC

June 1, 2007

Mr. Hank Webber
Vice-President for Community and Government Affairs
The University of Chicago
5801 S. Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60737

Dear Mr. Webber:

I was very excited to hear about the University's plans to develop the Illinois Central Community Hospital building on Stony Island Avenue and 58th Street.

The ICCH building is an important asset to the community, both visually and historically. The Conference hopes you will find a way to execute your project while keeping the historic building (possibly by using the empty space between the existing building and the Metra tracks).

By keeping the classic older building (which certainly would be perceived as a gesture of good will by the neighbors) coupled with the addition pf a vibrant new structure, this development could create an architecturally exciting project at an exceptional location here on the south side.

Most of us in the community were impressed by the University's unrushed, carefully thought-out, and open process for the development of the Hyde Park Theatre and adjoining building. I sincerely hope that you will follow a similar plan, with ample opportunity for broad community input and comment.

As always, thank you for your time and attention; we a the Conference are always happy to hear from you.

Sincerely,
George W. Rumsey, President

CC:
Leslie Hairston, Alderman, 5th Ward
Brian Goeken, Deputy Commissioner, Commission on Chicago Landmarks
Carol Bradford, President, Hyde Park Historical Society

Hyde Park Historical Society letter to Alderman Hairston

Hyde Park Historical Society
5529 South Lake Park Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
773 493-1893

June 26, 2007

Alderman Leslie Hairston
1900 E. 71st Street
Chicago, IL 60649

Dear Alderman Hairston:

At its monthly meeting last week, the Board of Directors of the Society directed me to write you a letter expressing our strong hope that you would not allow the Illinois Central Hospital to be demolished.

The ICH building (1916, Richard Schmidt) is of high architectural quality and is rated "orange" in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey. Schmidt is an important figure in both the development of the "Chicago School" of architecture and of the "Prairie School." His use of reinforced concrete (Montgomery Ward Warehouse) and simplified ornamentation (the Madlener House) are emblematic of Chicago architecture. The Illinois Central Hospital building was a pioneer effort in the evolution of the "progressive" hospital design movement, emphasizing private rooms, fresh air circulation, abundant natural light, and close professional contact. In addition, it is part of an ensemble of vintage buildings (including the Museum of Science and Industry, the Windermere Hotel, Vista Homes and Jackson Towers) that addresses Jackson Park in exactly the way Daniel Burnham envisioned in his Plan of 1090. It is a strong visual feature of Hyde Park and established itself as an important social feature of our history, having well-served the medical needs of generations of Illinois Central Railroad employees and of Hyde Park residents. The building is in good condition and does not pose a threat to public safety. Therefore, we request that you not allow the Illinois Central Hospital building to be demolished.

We would not object to a reasonable redevelopment of the site that includes the reuse of the historic hospital building, but we request that you insist that any new building be of a high architectural quality in keeping with t he standards already set by Hyde Park's historic and modern architecture.

Sincerely,

Carol Bradford, President

CC: Robert Zimmer, University of Chicago
Hank Webber, University of Chicago
Brian Goeken, Commission on Chicago Landmarks
George Rumsey, Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference
Roger Fross and John Clement, Rosalie Villas Association
Thomas G. Urban, Vista Homes Association
Jonathan Fine, Preservation Chicago
David Bahlman, Landmarks Illinois
Royce Yeater, National Trust for Historic Preservation

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Hyde Park Historical Society Preservation Committee's letter of late August 2007: committed to re-use, quality, AND low impact; willing to present to groups

THE ILLINOIS CENTRAL HOSPITAL / HOTEL DEVELOPMENT

The Hyde Park Historical Society and Landmarks Illinois are concerned about the
potential demolition of the historic Illinois Central Hospital building. Although we preservationists are primarily focused on finding an appropriate re-use of the historic hospital building, we are also firmly committed to two other things as well:

-- high quality of architecture for any new building on the site and a thoughtful aesthetic relationship between the old building and any new construction

-- minimal impact on the immediately surrounding neighborhood, especially parking, congestion and noise.


In order to play a useful role in the discussions with the University we felt it was important to accept their stated program needs for the hotel project and then to demonstrate that their needs could be met and combined with preservation, high quality architecture and low impact. We take seriously the many other questions that have been raised -- whether a hotel should be built in Hyde Park at all, if so then what site it should be built on, what would be the best project for the hospital site next to Vista Homes, labor relations, etc -- but we felt that we should, for the moment at least, confine our attention to those three immediate concerns surrounding the University's hotel proposal. We've attempted to address those issues by engaging an architectural firm to do an alternative plan for a hotel development on the hospital site incorporating the existing historic
building.


A little background:
Many times historic buildings are threatened with demolition when developers don't understand the full potential for re-use. A recent case in point: the Cook County Hospital building on the near west side. When the County wanted to tear down the historic hospital building they said preservation and re-use would be impractical and too expensive. Landmarks Illinois did a study that showed the building could be re-used as medical offices and would in fact be cheaper than the new construction proposed for that purpose. The County is now going to do just that. This is the sort of information and imagination we would like to add to the discussion of the University's hospital/hotel project.


The architectural firm we've engaged to do the alternative plan has wide experience working with major national hotel chains that have re-used historic buildings as hotels. The architects are evaluating the site, the existing building and the University's requirements, and will present their plan as soon as possible. We hope this study will broaden the community discussion of the hotel development and help address the issues of preservation, quality architecture, and low impact.


(We would like to add that both Hank Webber and Susan Campbell from the University have supplied our architects with all the information and specifications they have asked for. Without the University's generous cooperation our architects' job would have been almost impossible.)


Although we understand that many in the community do not have a primary interest in preservation of the historic hospital building, we do think that preservation is in the best interest of the community and of the immediate neighbors, including the residents of Vista Homes. The architecture of the old building is in harmony with the other buildings that face the park, including Jackson Towers, the Windermere, the Museum of Science and Industry, and Vista Homes. Its set-back softens its impact on the street and ensures that any new, larger building added to the site would be even further west and away from the street, causing less urban claustrophobia and blocking fewer views. And the waste of energy and materials lost in the demolition of a viable building can never be recovered.


We would be happy to meet with any community group or residents' organization to discuss the issues surrounding the Illinois Central Hospital/hotel development.


On behalf of the Hyde Park Historical Society and Landmarks Illinois,
-- Jack Spicer

773-324-5476 <jackspicer@earthlink.net>


Coverage on above. Hyde Park Herald September 5, 2007. By Nykeya Woods

The Hyde Park Historical Society and Landmarks Illinois announced last week that they are drafting a redevelopment plan for Doctors Hospital, 5800 S. Stony Island Ave., which is an alternative to the University of Chicago's planned demolition of the building. Representatives of the group also said that 80 percent of th parcel's structure could be preserved with their plan.

"We feel the building is important, and it needs to be saved. We don't think the developer has sufficiently investigated the possibility of saving the building in conjunction with the new building or buildings, said Landmarks Illinois President David Bahlman. "There's a way one can manipulate the site in order to save the building and still have the number of rooms and number of parking spaces."

the University of Chicago proposed earlier this summer replacing the former Illinois Central Hospital building with two large-scale hotels-- a 250-unit Marriott and a 230-unit Fairfield Inn and Suites. The proposed 15-story Marriott would house a Starbucks and a restaurant.

Bahlman said that two architects are working on alternative hotel plans for the 93-year-old building that calls for developers to preserve the facade. He did not real who the architects are, but said that the first group is Chicago based and that a second set would finalize the plans. Bahlman said adaptive reuse of the hospital was simple compared to other historic building preservation efforts. "It's not [that] difficult. A lot of projects where we try to create alternative solutions, they're just impossible. ...But this one seems to be relatively easy," Bahlman said.

Preservationist and Hyde Parker Jack Spicer was in attendance at a recent Fifth Ward meeting where the two groups announced their plans and said that this new plan combines the university's goals with preservation . "We decided hat we wanted to not say 'You could do this instead," We wanted to show that you could do what you want to do, university people, and still use that old building," Spicer said.

Hyde Park Historical Society President CArol Bradford said that the 18-member board has always opposed demolition. "Our board feels strongly that the demolition of the existing [building] would be a mistake.," Bradford said. "our concern primarily is to prevent the demolition of the existing building and to prevent the construction of the building as proposed." ...

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The first community meeting, July 23, 2007, convened by Ald. Hairston and the University of Chicago

Below is coverage in the Hyde Park Herald, July 25, 2007. This site's reports follow. GMO

By Yvette Presberry and Georgia Geis

In a hot, humid room at th e International House of Chicago, 114 E. 59th St., more than 250 people, including union activists, preservationists and residents, gathered Monday to voice concerns regarding the possible demolition of Doctors Hospital and development of two hotels in its place.

The University of Chicago held its first public meeting on July 23 to present their plans to build a Marriott and Fairfield Inn and Suites where Doctors Hospital currently stand at 5800 S. Stony Island Ave. Principal among concerns at the packed meeting were preservation of the hospital building and questionable labor practices.

"White has a long history of anti-worker behavior and is known to go to extreme lengths to avoid union admissions. Therefore, we're against this project as it is now," said Alexis Canalos, representative of Unite Here Local 1. Canalos and a handful of local union members wearing red buttons with the words Unite Here Local 1" attended the meeting to protest allegations of White Lodging Service Corporation's hostility to unions. Union members of various industries stood in in opposition of the development.

Preservationists were equally concerned. David Bahlman, president of statewide preservation agency Landmarks Illinois, said he opposed the replacement of the 93-year-old building with two hotels. "That's not Hyde Park, that's a convention center," Bahlman said.

Hyde Park Historical Society president Carol Bradford said that the hospital was part of t he significant network of buildings in Hyde Park. "It is part of an ensemble of vintage buildings ...that addresses Jackson Park in exactly the way [architect and urban planner] Daniel Burnham envisioned in his Plan of 1909," Bradford said.

If given City Council approval, a 25-unit Marriott an a 130-unit Fairfield Inn and Suites will replace the hospital. Underground parking will accommodate up to 230 vehicles, according tot he development's plans. Renderings of the hotel development show that a Starbucks is proposed for the first floor of the 15-story Marriott and an unnamed restaurant would be placed between the two hotels. Green space between Vista Home, a 13-story condominium structure, and the proposed hotel could be used for future development.

University of Chicago Vice President of Community and government Affairs Hank Webber defended the choice of location. "It's the best spot for a hotel in the community," said Webber. "It's visible."

When resident Madeline Frost asked why the hotel development could not be built south of Doctors Hospital, Webber said that developers that the university spoke with were not interested in the area. "It's a little too far from the center of activity," Webber said, noting that Doctors Hospital is surrounded by the lakefront, the college campus and various businesses.

Some of the other concerns raised by residents were parking, traffic congestion, loss of view and commercialization of Stony Island Avenue. After conducting a recent environmental study, Todd Halamka, design principal and director of design for the proposed development, concluded that parking would not be affected by the development.

When one audience member asked if employment and benefits would be given to local job seekers, Scott Travis, White Lodging's Director of Development and pre-construction, said that White has a good record with employee retention and plans to bring 130 new employees to the hotel.

Walker Johnson, a preservation consultant of Johnson Lasky hired by the university, said that historically many hotels line Stony Island Avenue and Lake Shore Drive, making it an ideal location for this new hotel project. Johnson said the facade of the building could not be reworked into the new development, citing that it was not indicative of Chicago style. "[Doctors Hospital building] has been ignored by any maps," Johnson said. "It was designed by a significant firm," he added.

Notable Chicago architects Richard E. Schmidt (1865-1958, Hugh M. Garden (1871-1951) and Edgar D. Marin (171-1951) designed the colonial revival-styled Doctors Hospital building, originally the Illinois Central Hospital building, in 1914. The building, with notable Georgian and Classical details, was one of the more than 300 hospitals designed by Schmidt. . "Richard Schmidt had become an expert in hospital design," Bahlman said. "He was on the cutting edge."

Doctors Hospital was sold in 1960 and renamed Hyde Park Community Hospital. From 1970 until its closure in 2000, the hospital underwent financial difficulties and eventually filed for bankruptcy. The university bought the vacant building last September for $10 million.

The university has protected an preserved some historical Hyde Park sites such as the International House, the Illinois Bell building and Law School Quadrangle buildings. Hyde Parker and preservationist Jack spicer said he hoped this building will be added to that list. "It is my belief that a good architect and developer could reuse the historic building as part of a larger development that would be architecturally beautiful, respectful of the community and valuable to Hyde Park's economic future," said Spicer.

Construction of the hotel could start by next spring, according to the U. of C. The hotels and coffee house are expected to open by February 2010.

 

Summary of the July 23, 2007 community meeting on proposed redevelopment of Doctors Hospital, 5800 S. Stony Island Avenue

by Gary Ossewaarde

The meeting was convened at International House at 6:30 pm. About 250 were in attendance, by Herald count.

Alderman Leslie A. Hairston (5th) welcomed the audience to the “first” community meeting and promised there will be more meetings and community input, with participation being important. She noted that smaller meetings were held with Vista Homes and neighbors, South East Chicago Commission, and the 57th Street Business Group.

Hank Webber, University of Chicago Vice President for Community and Government Affairs, introduced the project. He said there has been a consistent call for a business hotel and conference center. The call comes from the community, the University and the Hospitals. No idea for realizing this hope has worked out, he said. White Lodging approached the University. This proposal was not business-driven but by the principals’ relationship to the University (including being a patient) and perception that this is “something the University could use.” White would build and operate the facility, leasing the land from the University, using two-thirds of the site for now.
Webber said this is the best site for a hotel. It is large, close to the University and the Museum of Science and Industry, accessible to downtown, and visible. A survey was done of every other available site including 60th and Stony as to whether it would or would not support the project. This was the best and the only site acceptable to White. There will need to be a zoning change and approval by both the Chicago Plan Commission and City Council, since the Lakefront is impacted. No documents have been filed yet, but will be, at the earliest in September.
Webber said they will take comments and questions tonight, review them, and return with answers. This is not the end.

Harvey Golomb, Chief Medical Officer of the University of Chicago Hospitals said that up to 300 cancer patients need a nearby place to stay each year. Lack of a short and long-term stay facility hurts the Hospitals ability to draw patients from around the world, the U.S. and Illinois, and to service them at the world-class facility.

Later Ann Rashford, a representative of the Museum of Science and Industry said they have to put up lots of people downtown, and many visitors come great distances and have to stay. It would be nice if they could stay nearby and also money into the community.

Scott Travis, Director, Development and Pre-construction, White Lodging Services described the company and the project. White Lodging operates 110 facilities with 14,000 rooms in 7 states, and has 5,500 employees. White works with Marriott, which, he said, is a premium brand operated at above industry standard, including in wage rates. Two hotels are needed at this site because it is blended market and needs also to serve patrons needing more extended stays—so there will be a toward-the-higher-tier Marriott and a Fairfield Inn and Suites (also a Marriott brand). Travis stressed the pay and benefits and high retention rate of their employees.

Walker Johnson, Principal of Johnson Lasky Architects, said he was asked to evaluate the hospital for preservation. The railroad hospital started in the West, where there were few hospitals to serve a dangerous business. The Illinois Central did not build its own hospitals until 1912, starting with New Orleans, then Chicago (1914) and finally one in Paducah, KY, in the middle of its service area. Hospitals including those of the IC contributed to trauma techniques used in World War I. A prime objective was always to control medical costs to the railroads--he said at the expense of families. IC Hospital was sold in the 1950s, underwent various managements, and went bankrupt in 2000.

Architect Richard Schmidt was a specialist and expert in hospital design (he was from a medical family), which was the backbone of its moneymaking business, enabling it, as with most firms, to also do the great works for which they are best known. Schmidt, in his hospital work used accepted styles, which Johnson called “starved classicism” or Georgian, a style not otherwise popular in Chicago, he said. Johnson called the hospitals produced “not significant” in design, versus other Schmidt, Garden, Martin works which were mainly Art Deco including the Board of Trade and Palmolive buildings.
Johnson noted that the hospital is rated Orange in the Chicago Survey of significant buildings, probably because Schmidt designed it, he said, and is ignored by maps and guides.

Johnson said certain Hyde Park characteristics: large buildings, lots of hotels, lakefront drives, dominated East Hyde Park after World War I. Vista Homes is built as it is because more were expected on either side, but the Depression intervened, and this part of east Hyde Park remains uncompleted. Maybe this project can help the area and all Hyde Park take off again, he said.
He ended with a caution against facade-ism, which he said devalues both the older and the newer work and prevents a sense of whole.

Todd Halamka, Design Principal and Director of Design, HOK Architects. He discussed the sections, floor plans, and elevation of the project. Demonstrated why, in his view, the existing hospital could not be made to work with any modern hotel floor plan. For example, the rooms would be way too short and their ceiling too low in any orientation. The current structure also has load-bearing walls, so building a new outer shell would be impossible.

The architect said he made a real attempt to make the lines, materials, massing and streetscape blend with the park. The spaces between buildings were especially important. Ways were sought to save money, such as shared service cores for the Marriott and Fairfield. The hotels and restaurants are spectacular and on the street, practically on the sidewalk, and with curves, and there will be a real streetscape like the other side of Stony Island. The conference center, ballroom, and parking will be closer to the back. The complex will be integrated but not monolithic, with different heights, and green stretches. Parking is below. All is below the height of Vista Homes.

Michael Wertherman, Principal, KLOA Parking and Traffic Consultant. KLOA was recently hired in response to concerns and comments on the project. There were no results yet, but he said the parking meets code. However, the consultants and principals are very aware that code may not be sufficient here, including because several uses will be served at once. Each use needs its own evaluation, he said.

Questions and comments

Carol Bradford, president of Hyde Park Historical Society, led off by reading the Society’s letter, published in the Hyde Park Herald. It called for preservation, citing the history, architect, design, and that it fits into an ensemble that follows Daniel Burnham’s principles in the Plan of Chicago. The letter said that any new components must be of the high standards we expect in Hyde Park’s architecture, older and modern.

David Bahlman, Director of Landmarks Illinois and former resident, disagreed with Johnson, saying Georgian is a significant style in Chicago. He said the building would certainly not fall down in a rehab. Because of the scale and the windows, the existing structure could have an adaptive reuse—and his organization is hiring an architect to develop an alternative design. He said only the standard Marriott could not be accommodated with the present structure—Hyatt and other chains use older buildings frequently. He said his organization did not oppose demolition of Woodward Court because it was to be replaced by a great building. But what is proposed is not good architecture—in fact, it “is not Hyde Park, it’s a convention center!”

Jonathan Fine, President of Preservation Chicago, decried a disrespect of architecture and specifically Doctors Hospital he heard and is also expressing in an approach that wastes resources and energy by just tearing down the old (and putting it in a landfill) and building whole new structures. This, he said, is un-environmental. The University should take responsibility in that regard. He said preservation is not sentimental, but takes the practical viewpoint that a proposed replacement has to be superior to justify replacement. He said he asks his class what stood at the site of the Inland Steel Building—who cares: Inland Steel is a great building. He asked for a redevelopment plan.
S. Dockery? asked if White Lodging will live up to the Chicago labor standard and whether there will be jobs for residents. Mr. Travis talked of 130 employees and said Marriott’s labor rate is above the industry standard.

A Rosalie Villa resident (57-58 block of Harper across the railroad from the site) said hers is a residential street—why not put the complex at 60th and Stony, like the Ronald McDonald House, for adults. Travis said the Fairfield’s charges would be cheap. Webber reiterated they peddled the 60th site, it was too little too far—this site is stronger.

Another asked on parking and what about residents being able to park in the site. Or if there is a charge for parking, patrons will go into the neighborhood to park.

Jack Spicer praised the University of responsibility on preservation of its buildings and process on projects, and asked for the same with this.
A resident of Hyde Park was concerned about haz-mat material. Remediation must be total and thoughtful.

A Unite Here Local 1 spokes lady expressed strong concerns about White and said they had persons present who would testify, including after the meeting, on how White treats its employees. A Sheraton worker said hospitality workers deserve better and need the union.
A resident near the project asked why there was no mention of the residential buildings to the north—how will they be impacted? The project reps said there would be more space and the replacement structure that interfaces (part of the Fairfield) will be lower. This interface will be fine-tuned.

Marcy Schlessinger said she was involved with SECC studies that said there were not other sites and recommended not saving the present structure. She was thrilled by the plans. But, she said a parking solution is priority. She also asked about making the building LEEDS. Halamka said they are looking into what they can do and plan on seeking the financial benefits, but could not promise the building would be a certified one.

A Vista Homes resident asked, what is your business plan—many hotels have folded here, and it’s said other sites are not viable as hotels. Why will one succeed here? 300 patients are not enough to sustain a hotel. He also worried about environmental and infrastructure impact—including to aging sewers and electricity. Travis cited White’s and Marriott’s track record on developments. They will succeed all codes and improve matters. Webber said there was a third party review before the University went ahead.

A housing and development person was disturbed about not considering preservation and called for a redevelopment plan. She also said it took too long to get contacts and information to ask questions.
A Harper Avenue resident said his street would lose views of and be cut off from the lakefront.
Another: What can residents do to convince you not to make the street commercial? Webber said it already is and used to have a hospital.

A Vista Homes resident asked why a ballroom, and would that not bring both noise and lots of people flocking in looking for parking? And for alcohol, not far from an elementary school. Developers said it would be used for lots of things—there are not enough meeting rooms in the area; we had to scramble and settle for this hot room for this meeting.

Harper resident, directly behind. Will you pay property taxes? Yes. The ballroom and soundproofing? It will be in the center and surrounded by building and we will make sure the sound doesn’t get outside.
STOP (Student Tenants Organizing Project). We would rather see affordable housing, a mixed-use development here. And what other plans do you have for the south part? Others with the group talked about process, and these plans seem like a done deal. The buildings to the north should be involved too, in a comprehensive plan. Webber reiterated they are taking input, will look at the alternatives, will come back, and have to satisfy the Plan Commission and City Council.

A new resident said the whole 57th Street corridor needs parking. The hotel needs increased parking, including using the back area for it and putting the ballroom up in the structure.
A Harper resident said a convention center is not a suitable neighbor for them—go south of the Midway.
A Vista Homes resident asked about the different Marriott quality levels, and which would be here. The developers replied that Marriott has high design standards that every level has. In amenities, “Marriott” is the benchmark, although it is not a “Renaissance.”

Hans Morsbach, of Harper. Asked questions about the parking and parking study, including how parking demand will be kept from snowballing. Developers said they hired a consultant because of Vista residents’ concerns about parking. If the study shows more parking is needed, they will provide it. They generally sue 1-1 ratio in suburbs and add 30% in cities. Underground parking would be too expensive.

Greg Lane, Harper Avenue also feared a domino effect of parking. He asked several questions that the study needs to address. Developers said there would be parking for employees. Lane said the aesthetics of the plan are terrible and asked why the University could not insist on a great design, like for the chiller plant across the Midway. Your problem is the brand you have chosen, he said.

A Harper resident said the parking study has to be done during the school year and in conjunction with Metra commuters.

Another resident said the parkers would take the free spaces in front of their houses.
Asked what happens if White or Marriott plans change later or it closes? The university has control over choice of a successor.

The developers said they would be hiring a noise consultant.

Following the meeting, Unite One held a briefing for the Alderman and others interested that included testimony from a White Lodging employee on her experiences.


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Positions appear to harden, dig in, August 2007: More on July 23

Hyde Park Herald, August 1. By Yvette Presberry

Even as the University of Chicago continues to push its plan to demolish the historic Doctors Hospital, 5800 S. Stony Island Ave., and replace it with a pair of hotel high rise, preservationists and union advocates are stepping up their efforts to oppose the plan. Local preservationists are teaming up with statewide advocates, while a coalition of trade groups is pressuring the alderman to oppose the project.

The flurry of activity follows on the heels of a July 23 meeting in which more than 250 residents poured into International House, 1414 E. 59th St., to register their complaints about the plan. A number of people spoke in support of preservation of the hospital while others questioned labor practices of the planned manager of the hotels, Indiana-based White Lodging Service Corp. "There were a number of good points raised," said Hank Webber, U. of C. Vice President of Government and Community Affairs.

Meanwhile, Alexis Canalos, a representative of Unite Here Local 1, a coalition of trade workers, introduced Fifth ward Ald. Leslie Hairston at the International House meeting t an unnamed custodian who works at one of White's hotels. Local 1 oppose the hotel proposal, claiming that White has a history of "anti-worker behavior." The custodian reportedly spoke to Hairston about questionable labor practices under white Lodging's management, but Hairston is not budging on her claim it is too soon to discuss these matters. "They're talking about workers, we don't even have a [hotel] structure yet," Hairston said.

When asked how th U. of C. will address the allegations against White Lodging, Webber said that White would be responsible for tackling those issues. Webber also said that residents who live around the hospital have invited the U. of C. to present information on the U. of C. plan to build a Marriott and Fairfield Inn and Suites in place of the 93-year-old hospital. "We're also reaching out," Webber said.

Additionally, David Bahlman, president of Landmarks Illinois, said that the preservation agency and the Hyde Park Historical Society plan to conduct an alternative rehabilitation proposal as a rebuttal to the architect consultant the U. of C. used. Bahlman disagreed with the consultant who said Doctors Hospital's architecture could not be used in the new hotels.

Doctors Hospital was designed by noted architects Richard E. Schmidt, Hugh M. Garden and Edgar D. Martin in 1914. The building is one of more than 300 hospitals designed by Schmidt.

Webber said that the next public meeting might be held in four-to-six weeks, after the U. of C. can answer questions and statements made at last week's public meeting. The meeting might also be held again at the International House.....

An online community listserve to discuss the hotel proposal can be found at pavethelake.com.

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A public letter from Quentin Young, M.D. Health Care Activist; David Moberg, Author; Leon M. Despres, Former Alderman, 5th Ward; Sara Paretsky, Author

September 11, 2007

Dear Neighbor,

As you probably know, the University of Chicago has proposed tearing down Doctors Hospital and replacing it with a fifteen story, 380 room Marriott hotel.

Local residents have raised serious concerns about the impact of the hotel's traffic, noise and inadequate parking. Preservationists are disappointed by the lack of effort put into keeping the historic structure of Doctors Hospital. The extensive plans laid out in June showed a disregard for transparency and community input that we expect on public projects in our area.

And, while the hotel could bring quality jobs to our neighborhood, the University has chosen a corporation to rn the hotel whose track record raises manor questions about the way they will treat their employees. White Lodging is being sued by the federal government for alleged religious discrimination. Worker in their South Side hotels report earning much less than the standard that other Chicago hotels pay, which is $13.20 an hour with free individual health insurance - and now some White Lodging workers claim they are made to work through the breaks to which they are legally entitled.

Whom does this project benefit if a hotel in our community destroys a neighborhood landmark, negatively affects nearby residents and depends on jobs that keep workers in poverty? Are these the neighbors that we want in our community?

Our message is simple: Respect our neighborhood, respect our values, respect the workers.

Please call Alderman Leslie Hairston at (773) 324-5555 and ask her to not approve a hotel development that doesn't respect our neighborhood, respect our values and respect the workers.

Sincerely [as in title]

Attached flyer: Will White Lodging Be a Good Neighbor?

Respect for our neighborhood. Serious concerns about the impact of a hotel on Stony Island haven't been addressed. Neighbors say that the hotel doesn't have enough parking and that the giant hotel doesn't fit the community. Doctors Hospital - a historic building - will be torn down for the hotel. White Lodging and the University of Chicago should address concerns like parking, traffic, and preserving Doctors Hospital.

Respect for our values. The University of Chicago insists on using White Lodging - a company being sued for alleged religious discrimination - to manage the hotel. White Lodging employees in Chicago claim they are made to work through the breaks that they are legally entitled to. this community prides itself on its religious tolerance and its values. The University of Chicago should choose a hotel operator that lives up to our values.

Respect for workers. A hotel in the 5th Ward could bring over 100 much needed, quality jobs to our community, but White Lodging employees at their south side hotels [earn] much less than Chicago's standard union contract, which includes a living wage of $13 an hour and low cost family health care. Any hotel built in our community should have good union jobs.

It Takes Good Neighbors to Have a Good Neighborhood. Don't Let White Lodging Be a Bad Neighbor.

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Introduction

Doctors (Illinois Central) Hospital, 5800 S. Stony, was sold at auction for c 10.1 million to U of C in September, 2006. Preservationists want the main body of this Orange structure (on the Chicago Survey of Historic and Architectural Resources) kept, with any high rise (opposed by neighbors) kept in the back. Ald. Hairston is said to have made no commitments on what kind of development will go there. The University bought the complex, is likely to demolish at least most of it for a hotel-convention center and housing for business school students. Once a plan has been developed within a few months, it will be revealed to the community, but the process will be a closed one. Preservationists could fight on this one if a good part is not kept, especially since architect Richard Schmidt wrote a text on modern, commercial hospitals based partly on this structure, one of the first. The story of this 1915 structure has been thoroughly researched and, say Preservation Chicago and Preservation Illinois (LPCI) its facade at least is worth saving. Preservationists have talked with university officers about how much room there is and wiggle room to keep the shell of most of the old structure. It is the facade that is on the Chicago Survey Orange-rated list.

Word is that the University may be leaning toward teardown, having seriously worked with a preservation/rehab architect. Likely operator of the convention center will be White Lodgings--which has had some controversy over union policy.

Another question: The University can easily and does trump all other offers for property in the neighborhood. How does this affect prices and pricing; how does it tie up land and land uses?
Another example: Chicago Theological Seminary's dorm McGiffert House will be remodeled for office space for the University's Biological Sciences Division. Affordable groups had been exploring partial conversion to middle income rental.

Another: The HPKCC Board was apprised of a meeting of Steven Donald of Local 1, UniteHere union, which represents hotel workers (organized almost exclusively downtown and by O'Hare), and Hank Webber about students and others concerns about likely hire of White Lodging management to run the complex. The Whites are heavy and steady contributors to the University and also vigorously anti-union, experiencing difficulties and law suits in Indianapolis over this. Such arrangements for big donors are not uncommon (cf. Allen Center at Northwestern). In this case the concern was over the strident anti-worker and anti-union stance by the White company. Mr. Donald indicated little flexibility by the University, even though the University often places stringent restrictions on its builders and vendors--cf. the campus expansion projects and Harper Theater. Donald said Webber indicated the process will be strictly in the hands of the University, even though neighbors have expressed concerns about development that could well increase density-- and especially traffic as hotels generally do, as well as the concerns for at least facade preservation. About the Whites.

Rumor by mid May was that the University is leaning towards demolition. This was true.

Doctor's Hospital at 5800 S. Stony Island was bought by the University of Chicago at Sept. 6 auction for 10 million. The University (vice president Hank Webber) said at the time it will have a public process on plans, starting within a few months. However, word is that at least most will be torn down to make way for a hotel conference complex and apartments for GSB students and that the plan will be shown after it has been developed. Degree of preservation likely was uncertain for the Schmidt, Garden and Martin originally Illinois Central Hospital, one of the first corporate hospitals in the country and source of a significant book on hospitals and institutional architecture by Richard Schmidt. Indeed, it included a number of innovations such as partial departure from the old common ward system of patient housing and inclusion surgical suite viewing. An important part of its clientele was University faculty and upper middle class Hyde Parkers--the U of C did not start constructing its own hospitals until the late 1920s. Before then, the IC Hospital was the de facto medical arm and school of U of C. Currently its interior was said after studies to be quite unsound and would have to include extensive haz-mat remediation.

One concept mentioned was a university-affiliated hotel for part of the site. The university analyzed the environmental conditions, Webber said, and the site will require some remediation. Zoning changes would also be needed as the current zoning is "institutional." There is plenty of room to build. Preservationists are likely to protest and fight a plan that does not preserve the main building or at least the facade. It is an "Orange" building, of significance, on the Chicago Survey of Historic and Architectural Resources. The Hyde Park Historical Society, while not taking a formal stand on the future of Doctor's Hospital, provisionally agreed that it is a potential candidate for a major concentration or consideration by the Society.

Some residents such as Hannah Hayes have laid out ideas for reuse that would include a motel, convention center, community space, a grocery and sundries store, nursery school, and housing for seniors who cannot afford Montgomery Place.

Details: Maroon October 20 2006

By Andrew Alecander

The University is considering plans to build a hotel and conference center on the site of the former Doctor's Hospital of Hyde Park after the U of C's $10.1 million purchase of the 5800 South Stony Island site at a September 6 auction.

A full plan for the site will likely be released in three to six months, said Hank Webber, vice president for community and government affairs. It is likely that part of the site may be used for other purposes besides the hotel. The U of C has been interested in acquiring the Doctor's Hospital site since the former hospital went bankrupt in 2000, Webber said. [Indeed, tried to buy it ahead of last owners in the early 1990s-Ed.]

"It's within a couple blocks of campus, it's a large vacant parcel, and it provides a place for future University needs without displacing current residents," he said. The 2004 U of C Master Plan identifies a need for a hotel near the U of C--the closest major hotel is the Ramada Inn at at 49th Street and South Lake Shore Drive--and recommends that a hotel be built at East 60th Street and South Stony Island Avenue by 2020.

Luxury condominiums are "not the highest and best use" of the site, Webber said. The 3.5 acre site was assessed in 2005 at $413,293, according to the Cook County Assessor's office. It is bordered to the north by apartments and to the south by a senior housing building [?].

Several other developers had been interested in the site, Webber said, but the "very long process"--plans to auction off the Doctor's Hospital site have taken several years--probably dissuaded them. Three or four other developers came to the auction, but only the U of C and the original owner placed bids, Webber said.

The Doctor's Hospital operated from 1992 to 2000 before filing for bankruptcy after a Medicare/Medicaid overbilling scandal for which two senior officers at the hospital were convicted on felony charges.

It was built in 1915 as the Illinois Central Hospital, and is one of the Chicago Historic Resources Survey's 9,600 citywide properties considered significant to the surrounding community.

The University will probably renovate the site. "In no case are we likely to maintain more than the facade of the building," Webber said. "It's not in great shape, and it's also a building designed as a hospital," he said.

Some Hyde Park residents believe the University should consider the building's historical significance in crafting future plans. "It's a solid, well built, beautiful building," said Jonathan Fine, president of the historic preservation group Preservation Chicago, which has researched the building. " I doubt that the interiors would be very historic," he said. "We would encourage the University to retain as much of the exterior as they can."

Jack Spicer, chairman of the Hyde Park Historical Society's Preservation Committee, said the building has considerable architectural and historical significance. It was built at the beginning of the development of modern hospitals, Spicer said, and the architect, Richard Schmidt, was an influential Chicago architect of the early 20th century who wrote a textbook on hospital design. "It wouldn't be difficult to take of the back wings and preserve the facade," he said.

Due to the building's historical status, applications to demolish or significantly renovate the former hospital are subject to 90 days of public comment. Any reuse of the building would also probably require a change in zoning.

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Note, a Maroon editorial October 24 supported conversion of Doctors' Hospital to a hotel in terms that it could be said went on a tangent about families, prospective students etc. staying downtown and trying to get to campus via transit lines that take them through "grimy" neighborhoods. Letter writer Matt Johnston October 27 pointed out a long history, including Cottage Grove as a University-enforced barrier, that should make us all more careful of assumptions we let get into our writing.

White Corp. of Indiana (University donors) among several working with University to explore hotel-convention center option

Hyde Park Herald, December 6 2006. By Erin Meyer

One of the region's largest purveyors, White Lodging Service Corporation, may have a hand in the redevelopment of Doctors Hospital should the University of Chicago choose to pursue a hotel and convention center for the site."We have had a dialogue with the University of Chicago," said Deno Yiankes, president and chief Operating Officer (COO) of the company's development and assets management division.
They have indicated that they are hoping to develop a luxury hotel. But right now it is to early to go beyond that."

Yiankes is responsible for identifying opportunities for new hotel developments and seeing them completed, the vast majority of which have been Marriott.

University officials said White was only one of the developers they had consulted with but would not disclose the names of others. "As part of our investigation we are exploring the potential of a hotel and conference center on the site," said Hank Webber, U. of C.'s vice president of Community and Government Affairs. "As part of that we are talking with potential hotel developers."

The White family is one of Indiana's most wealthy. Billionaire Dean White, who founded the company in 1985, and son Bruce White are strong supporters of the university. U. of C. has been the beneficiary of between $250,000 and $999,999 in White Lodging Services Corporation donations for each of the last three fiscal years including 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2004-05. Bruce White has also served on the University of Chicago Hospitals Board of Trustees.

A new Hyde Park hotel may signal White Corp's re-entry into the hotel industry. The company sold 100 hotels--more than $1.7 billion worth of assets--to BET Entertainment founder Robert L. Johnson in the beginning of 2006...

Following the auction, university officials said they were considering numerous avenues for redevelopment, including one plan that would use part of the property for a U. of C.-affiliated hotel. No other possible uses for the site have been disclosed and the university declined to comment on whether or not the historic building--designed by Schmidt, Garden and Martin almost a century ago, will be preserved or demolished. Doctors Hospital is an Orange-rated historic building, its most architecturally-significant characteristics being the facade.

"The next step is to assess how the community feels. We will assist in every way we can but first the residents of Hyde Park would have to decide if this is an issue," said Jonathan Fine, president of Preservation Chicago.

Webber said he hopes the university would be able to discuss its plans for Doctors Hospital with the community sometime during the first quarter of 2007.

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Community letters and views

Karen Rechtschaffen sees nightmare of parking, commerce, activity- instead of a community-friendly use in a community pinched for affordability: What kind of a community do we want, and shouldn't the UC engage the community if figuring out what that is?

June 20 Herald

The front page story regarding the planned Marriott Hotel on Stony Island in last week's Herald is disturbing for several reasons.

Our neighborhood is one where students and young faculty cannot find affordable housing. surely there are other more community-friendly uses for a parcel of land the size of the Doctors Hospital. To visualize a 17-story hotel is to visualize a nightmare of parking, commerce and activity that is antithetical to what we would like to think the university would support.

The community must ask itself what kind of a neighborhood do we want, and the university would do well to enlist community input on a project the size of this one prior to foisting a completed plan on the community.

Further community meetings are scheduled prior to the time developers must gain approval from the Zoning Commission. I urge neighbors to attend both community meetings and those City of Chicago meetings where the public may attend and provide comment.

 

Karen Culberg Rechtschaffen forwarded to us her letter of June 21 27 to Alderwoman Hairston, cc'd Robert Zimmer, U of C President; George Rumsey, HPKCC President, Tom Urban, President of Vista Homes Association; Editor, Hyde Park Herald . See more of her views further down.

Dear Alderman Hairston:

I am writing as a long-time Hyde Parker and neighbor to the proposed seventeen story Marriott Hotel on Stony Island Avenue. I was surprised to see that this topic is not on the agenda of your next meeting. Neighbors and other community residents are outraged that the University of Chicago has not solicited community input for this project, and has presented a plan for an architectural atrocity as a done deal.

Objections to this building, as presented, are myriad. It is sad when a city that understands its architectural heritage more than any city in the United States would allow the tear down of a building of architectural significance. If the building were to be redeveloped honoring the original architecture there would not be an objection.

A 350 room hotel with 230 parking spaces is a recipe for disaster. As a forty-year resident of the Harper-Stony Island block I can tell you there is simply not enough parking. The hotel will employ people, adding to the need for parking places. The proposed hotel will have a ballroom space for 400. More parking nightmares. The immediate area is already a parking lot for people who park their cars and take the Metra to the loop.

The infrastructure of the neighborhood is fragile. The sewers on Harper Avenue do not drain after a rainstorm Years of attention by the Department of Streets and Sanitation have not been able to rectify the problem. Imagine the amount of water entering the sewer from the proposed hotels.

I wrote a letter to the Hyde Park Herald this week that was too brief in stating my concern that this neighborhood does not have enough housing for its students and graduate students. The university could use the Doctors Hospital site for affordable housing and turn to another site, perhaps at 60th and Stony Island where the Midway Plaisance Hotel once served the neighborhood.

Neighbors are organizing to protest this proposal. The character, aesthetics and quality of life in our community will be compromised if the university persists in this plan. We ask for your support in convening community meetings and enlisting community response to this proposal.


Aaron Cook says hotel building lacks neighborhood feel in June 20 letter.

In regards tot he proposed Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, I believe the project is basically a good idea. It seems that the architecture firm has undertaken an ample effort to understand the feasibility of the site and make decisions based on this analysis.

My concern is that the project, which has been tagged as having "a neighborhood feel," does not fit within the context of Hyde Park. From the rendering shown on the front cover of the paper, the hotel could be anywhere, like a suburb or near an airport. The idea of capturing a neighborhood feel demands an understanding of the local vernacular of Hyde Park, such as any number of well proportioned brick buildings throughout our neighborhood. The same goes for the proposal by Studio Gang for the 56th an Cornell site.

I know some people will think of my view of capturing the spirit and tradition of the neighborhood as regressive. But I would challenge anyone to look around the neighborhood. The best and most humane buildings are traditional by architects who have been forgotten. But it is very difficult to find a building that was at one time considered "progressive" that has stood the test of time and captured the imagination as it did for a few fleeting moments when it was first built.

We do not have to continue making these mistakes. There are several architects who are capable of designing buildings that actually do have "a neighborhood feel."

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However, David L. Hoyt (writing in the Herald June 27) says the above views are regressive

Leon Despres, oracular consultant on the preservation of Hyde Park's truck and barter economy, objects to the proposed hotel at 58th and Stony Island because it "commercializes the street." aside from this rather medieval hostility toward commerce, and the exaggerated concern with "commercialization" at this particular location--I could shoot a canon south from Stony Island and 56th without hitting any commerce or retail--Despres' objection betrays a sense of urbanism that is, well, not really urbanism. More like a vision of he city suited to Abraham Lincoln's log-cabin village at New Salem, with tawdry commerce replaced by craftsmen plying their cottage trades off the street so as not to make too much noise or disturb the birds.

A world-class university like the U. of C. needs a nearby hotel to match, one that is as close to campus as possible, not shunted across the Midway. Unless there is a city ordinance against street-front commerce, Stony Island is a natural corridor for development, and needs lots of it. This hotel is a good place to start.

The Herald didn't hesitate to put its boot-print on Alderman Dorothy Tillman's backside because she obstructed development in the struggling 3rd ward. For the sake of consistency, the Herald should seek out new leadership in Hyde Park that sees this neighborhood's urban location, and the commerce, culture, and vitality that come with it, as an asset to be cultivated, rather than a threat to be held at bay; a leadership that can come up with ideas and say "Yes" instead of shooting them down and habitually saying "No".

Maryal Stone Dale says Stony is already noisy with lots of problems

....The Vista Garage is a possible added problem with the city doing a terrible job of keeping our sewer working. This whole "underground" aspect of the University of Chicago's hotel plans has us quite worried as we already have problems and are worried about our foundations if they dig like crazy.

This meeting may or may not bring out comments about U. of C. --if it does I will report on them. The problem with "community meetings" in Hyde Park is that a lot of people talk but it often doesn't get anyone very far--visit the Point....

Ever since I held my first and ONLY coffee for a candidate , I have counted on her to hang in and not let the U. of C. "play God," which is one of its favorite roles... Among other items we are waiting for the community to realize that eh U. of C. will have to be especially careful because the hospital probably left hazardous waste galore. Marriott Hotels elsewhere are obliged to have chapter 8 housing, plus the U. of C. acts as if Stony Island were a quiet residential street they would jazz up, which is amusing.

Nothing could be further from the truth.: the Museum of Science and Industry brings in noisy buses all the time; in good weather there are loud speakers, parties, and drums; as well as tours, and thanks to Illinois Department of Transportation's stupidity, the traffic in front of us goes about 100 miles an hour, mixed with the fire engines, and the motorcycle brigade at night.

In the winter we see (and hear) lamp posts knocked down, accidents galore on Stony and Cornell--while bikers ride up and down our sidewalk. There are also 2 schools and a YMCA on Stony within 3 blocks. The last thing we need is 3 restaurants and valet parking adding to the confusion an d stealing what little parking is left--most is used daily as it is on Harper Avenue, by commuters to the Loop.

But the bottom line is the "look" of Hyde Park is not a cheap, modern hotel.

 

Hans Morsbach says Drs Hospital looks pretty good now.

Hyde Park Herald, July 18, 2007

I would like to pose a few questions and comments regarding the new hotel on Stony Island Avenue. Is it essential that the hotel be built at that location? The university controls other sites that may be more appropriate.

Parking capacity of 230 spaces would be totally inadequate for a 380-room hotel, patrons for two restaurants and about 150 employees. It would crowd parking spaces in nearby residential streets making permit parking a reality in Hyde Park. Can employee parking be provided?

What is the long-term plan for the space between the hotel and Vista Homes? Is it destined to become an expansion area for the hotel? Will the hotel agree to give it to the Nature Conservancy or will it be used as a wildlife area?

While the university has gone out of its way to have beautiful buildings, the projected hotel reminds me of a cookie cutter design that has gone out of fashion decades ago. It looks like a Holiday Inn of the 1950s. It will be an eyesore and the ugliest building in the area.

While I have never paid much attention to the architectural merit of the hospital, compared to the proposed plans, it looks pretty good to me now. It certainly has a lot more aesthetic merit than the planned hotels.

In all, I sense a rather high-handed approach on the part of the university to saddle our community with an ugly building and a monstrous parking problem, not to mention the fact that some apartments in Vista Homes will lose their view.

Our alderman should provide some sense that the zoning variance necessary is not granted perfunctorily, but is connected to an understanding that the new development must deal with sensible concerns of neighbors. high-powered zoning lawyers (Mayor Daley's brother) should not make it possible to ignore legitimate objections of the neighborhood.

Morsbach's letter of August 1 goes into more detail of what's wrong or needs changing--concludes scrap the plan.

The University pulls out all stops to convince Hyde Parkers th at t he suggested Stony Island hotels sensibly fulfill a neighborhood need. Still, major concerns remain and need to be addressed: They are:

1. Aesthetics. The university maintains that the historic landmark status of the hospital is not deserved as it is lacking in aesthetic significance. At the same time, the university, which generally exhibits exquisite architectural taste, supports a design nobody likes. The design appears outmoded and lacking in distinction.

2. Facadism. In last week's presentation the architect explained a phenomenon called facadism, an architectural scheme to maintain the original facade and build a more modern structure behind it. We were told that facadism is a flawed trendy concept which has been applied to some loop buildings (presumably unsuccessfully)such as the southeast corner building on Wabash and Randolph where the original facade continues to grace the historic feeling on Wabash. Facadism is also to be employed by the university-controlled site on Harper Avenue and 53rd street (the Sagan Building). Just the same, the architect explained that facadism is not only a flawed concept but is also totally impractical for the existing structure. It complicates the architectural designs and poses structural problems. This assertion reminds me of past university claims that the Point limestone is an anachronism, that I-House cannot be salvaged and that the Medici is unsuitable for 57th Street. Could it be possible that the unwillingness to utilize the facade of the existing reflects an absence of and imaginative design? Wy couldn't the facade be maintained for the entrance of the hotels and the suites while the bulk of the hotel rooms could be in an elegant tower at the rear of the site? Further, the university's assumption that the landmark status can be overridden is high handed and does not reflect the feeling of most Hyde Parkers. We are proud of our buildings and like to maintain them! I can see nothing wrong with facadism. I don't see why it cannot be used on Stony and even a misapplied facadism appears a lot more attractive than the building suggested.

3. Zoning. The university has hired the best zoning law firm money can buy, which happens to count the mayor's brother as one of its partners. This may assure smooth sailing in the City Council. The community may wish to zone the green area between the hotels and Vista homes for environmental use only such as a park. If this green area will in the future become the site of expansion, it would constitute betrayal of the Vista residents who are now asked to approve zoning changes. Zoning should preclude the green area for use for future hotel expansion.

Doing business with donors of the university. There may be nothing wrong with doing business with organizations that have generously contributed to the university. But a donor status should not be a ticket for overriding legitimate neighborhood concerns.

4. Site selection. It is true that the selected site is attractively located near the university public transportation the museum and the lake. But there are other locations as well. why not attempt to buy the hotel on 59th street and the lake (the hotel may find it wise to sell in light of the impending serious competition)? How about a site further south on Stony Island Avenue, on 61st Street or Cottage Grove Avenue? All these locations would diffuse the affluence and charm of Hyde Park and create less controversy.

5. Parking. Hyde Park has maintained lovely residential areas with parking on the street. This should not be allowed to change. Planning a mere 230 parking spaces for 360 hotel rooms, three restaurants, and 150 employees would put real pressure on ambient street parking. It is predictable that parking scarcity would greatly inconvenience Hyde Park residents and make permit parking an attractive defense. Permit parking could spread all over the community and most residents do not like it. The creation of more parking spaces is a matter of money and the developers are saying that here is no need for more parking and and effect on the neighborhood should be accepted as a matter of progress. Well, I like to park my car near my house on Harper and I do not care how much more money will be required to provide adequate parking on the site. An expenditure of $2 million would not jeopardize the project but would alleviate predictable parking problems. Providing adequate paring is the cost of operating a hotel in crowed urban residential areas. Shifting the burden to neighbors is not acceptable. Parking capacity should be doubled.

6. Further study? We are told that the planning process of th hotel has not been concluded and that the university will employ experts to analyze areas of concern and the evaluation of alternatives. Experts have the predictable habit of finding solutions favorable to the party paying their fees. a university-hired traffic analyst, no matter how impeccable his credentials, is unlikely to conclude that, indeed th parking capacity has to be doubled, and an architectural design firm is equally unlikely to conclude that the proposed development is ugly.

My experience with the Save the Point issue has shown that even in light of irrefutable evidence to the contrary--that the original limestone is more economical and preferred by citizens --experts kept insisting that concrete is more suitable for the Point. Probably a million dollars was spent (by the City, Park District, the Department for the Environment, the Army Corps of Engineers and the university) in an unsuccessful attempt to convince the public that concrete is better than limestone.

7. Citizen's input. There are many, generally sensible and concerned local citizens who have a stake to maintain the amenities in our community. The university would do better to work with a group of concerned citizens to find a solution. So far the university's highhanded approach has alienated citizens and riled up resistance to such an extent that there is a suggestion to vote the precinct dry. The university would do better to try to understand and work with its neighbors. The attempt to urge faculty to attend neighborhood meetings to persuade citizens to support the development does not work. Only a couple individuals spoke in support of the development. There might be a message in that.

Everything considered, the university should scrap the suggested design and come up with a concept acceptable to the community.

[For further such analysis in opposition, see the next and the letter several below by Alan Rechtschaffen. For arguments in favor, see letters starting with that of Mr. Perovic]

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Herald editorial July 18, 2007

The University of Chicago seems to have unlearned a number of lessons about working with the community in its recent actions regarding Doctors Hospital. The missteps surrounding the announcement that they plan to demolish the historic property and replace it with two high-rise towers are all-too-familiar. From the tiny venue in which this announcement was made to the lack of community input in the decision-making process to the indifference these actions reveal, we have seen this pattern before.

Why would the university think a dramatic transformation of such an important thoroughfare would - or even should - go undiscussed? It's as if they wanted to tear the playlot out of Bixler Park and didn't think anyone would mind. Once again, we must articulate the obvious: better decisions are made when they are made transparently and with much deliberation. When all interested parties are included in any decision-making process, everyone benefits.

Compounding the absurdity of this behavior is the historic nature of the property. Designed by the firm Schmidt, Garden and Martin, it is a wonderful example of the Colonial Revival style and the richness the firm added to the more tan 300 communities where they designed and built hospitals. A stroll through the neighborhood would impress upon a stranger how valuable the quality of the built environment is to Hyde Parkers.

This Monday, July 23, the university is holding a public meeting at International House, 1414 59th St., at 6:30 p.m. We applaud this step and turn to the community to urge everyone to come out in force.

 

However, Edward Perovic says people he has spoken with want the project, "Some development needs to happen in Hyde Park." Letter to Herald, July 25, 2007

The front page of the Hyde Park Herald on July 18, would be comical if it didn't reflect a sad truth about our community. The three front page stories carried the following texts: "Residents reject high-rise proposal for Mobil-McDonald's site;" "JPAC says no to Olympics;" "Open meeting to be held for Doctors Hospital," and "Whether public approval will be given to demolish." Letters to the Editor offered more of the same.

"Community input" in Hyde Park is becoming "Community roadblock." Every time a developer or the university proposes a new project, there is immediate outcry. for decades, all these outcries have produced is more vacant lots and boarded-up buildings. Meanwhile, we Hyde Parker continue to do our shopping, eating and movie-going outside of the neighborhood.

While the South Loop and practically every other community in Chicago has seen a dramatic increase in retail and entertainment offerings, we have seen an increase in empty storefronts Hyde Park's reputation has become one of anti-development and anti-retail. The lack of restaurants and basic necessity retailers speaks volumes. You can create all the TIFs in the world but if retailers are chased away by "community input," the TIFs become useless. It's difficult to raise property taxes on vacant storefronts.

I have spoken to several friends (all Hyde Parkers) after the Herald broke the news about the Doctors Hospital being replaced by a hotel. The consensus was that it's a wonderful idea. Makes perfect sense to have a hotel so close to the museum as well as to serve the visitors to the university and hospitals. The idea of a possible "quality restaurant" within the hotel complex was exciting (not so much for yet another Starbucks, however!)

My point being is that there are many Hyde Parkers who are tired of driving by vacant lots and boarded up buildings on our way to the north side to watch a movie and do our shopping. Should the university or developers be given carte blanche when it comes to their projects. Of course not. The first and foremost concern should be for parking.

Developers should be given notice that Hyde Park welcomes development as long as your development can facilitate the parking needs of your project without creating a parking burden to existing neighbors. Anything beyond that is trivial. Not everybody in a community can be satisfied with any given project.

Surely we can create win-win situations with developers that will bring Hyde Park into the 21st century without sacrificing our academic and cultural traditions. A high-rise or tow may be the price we need to pay but it is in all of our interests to set aside the roadblocks and create real community input that will revitalize our wonderful and unique neighborhood.

Jonah Roth says vacant buildings creepier than bad architecture- Herald Aug. 1 o7

If Hyde Park preservationists continue to object to the proposed Marriott Hotels on Stony Island Avenue they will certainly achieve their goal: Hyde Park will be full of historically and architecturally significant buildings. I object, however, to your insistence on preserving abandoned buildings that detract from the quality of life in Hyde Park. You ar turning Hyde Park into a ghost town for the sake of architecture...

I regularly walk by the Doctors Hospital on the way to visit my Grandmother in Vista Homes. I should not have to tell you that abandoned buildings are creepy. I would much rather walk by a well-maintained hotel than a shuttered hospital. It's wonderful to talk about the architectural value of the Drs. Hospital, but I urge you to go spend some time in front of it on Stony Island. It's a nasty place right now and it has no value to the neighborhood as such. Another example of this unique idea of preservation via abandonment is St. Stephen's Church on Blackstone Avenue.

The University of Chicago is not our rich uncle. Nor is it our rich grandpa. We cannot insist that it preserve every pretty building in the neighborhood. Sometimes we must surrender older buildings for the sake of improving the neighborhood, and now is one of those times.

Joseph Samuelson August 1 told the Herald:I have had enough of people in this neighborhood trying to prevent Hyde Park from coming out of the Middle Ages. Of course we need a hotel in Hyde Park We have only one badly run facility and everyone else stays downtown. And then we cry when stores and businesses are leaving the neighborhood.

Walter Guterbock in Aug. 8 Herald: Hyde Park and South Side need a Hotel

I grew up in Hyde Park and frequently visit my mother, who still lives there. As a veteran of too many night sat the Ramada and the Quadrangle Club I can vouch for the fact that Hyde Park, in fact the whole South Side, needs anew hotel.

It makes no sense that there are no nice hotels between the Loop and Indiana, east of Midway Airport. Visitors to the university and the hospitals have to stay downtown, and their dollars are spent there.

The Ramada has improved in recent years but it is still shabby and outmoded. Good hotels will attract out-of-town visitors and allow them to discover the neighborhood. They will create local jobs, bring new customers to local businesses, provide a venue for meetings and weddings and entertainment venues that will also serve Hyde Parkers.

A vacant hospital does no one any good, and it is no architectural masterpiece.

Likewise in the same issue Robert Rosenfield says development is the best deal for HP

I doubt that the Herald's headline (July 25) that "Residents reject Drs. Hospital swap" is defensible. It seems to me that it represents easy, "cheap-shot" reporting. The reporter's quote professional union leaders and preservationists, who came to the meeting loaded for bear, but I see no evidence that they went out of their way to find out the opinions of average Hyde Parkers.

Hyde Park needs new and diversified business. There are too many cookie-cutter stores and chains.

A modern, convenient hotel would be a tremendous boost to Hyde Park. But the critics yelp about preserving a cookie-cutter hospital of a vintage that is well represented in the city, quibble bout unionization of jobs that do not yet exist and complain of the scarcity of parking where there is currently a scarcity of residents.

They ask why the university does no develop a seedy area first, when it should be obvious that the place to start improvements is with a site that will be commercially successful. I see a modern hotel in this site as being a tremendous boon. And who says the architecture is mundane; it is at least the equal of many local high-rises. It will be attractive in its proximity to the university, to the Museum and to the shops on 57th street.

Professionally, it will allow people like me to put up visiting colleagues nearby rather than schlep them back and forth for want of a safe and attractive nearby. The latter statement makes it obvious that i am a U. of C. faculty member, which will lead a certain number of readers to dismiss my concerns out of hand as biased.

However I am a resident of the community and what I say about putting up professional colleagues also holds for gathering s of visiting family and friends. My views are similar to those of other long-timers (see Ed Perovic's letter in this column in the July 18th issue, who put the same issues more eloquently). I am well aware that the university is pursing its self-interest and their preliminary plan will benefit from community input, but in this instance it clearly coincides with the best interests of the community.

I would hazard to guess that if the alderman were to canvas residents, that is, those who signed-in to the I-House meeting on July 23 and have Hyde Park-Kenwood ZIP codes, the majority will favor the overall university plan.

 

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But August 14 Alan Rechtschaffen sets forth matters the project needs to address; fears Marriott/White profit colors all.

Last week's Hyde park Herald ran letters by Walter Guterbock and Robert Rosenfeld in which they argue for a new hotel in hyde Park to house visitors (professional colleagues, friends and family) to stimulate the local economy, create new jobs, etc. But that is not the critical issue. I have spoken to dozens of Hyde Park friends, and I don't remember any who were against a new hotel. The critical issue are the features of a new hotel and how they are decided. These are issues of site, size, staffing and parking. Apparently, the original plan was decided mostly by Marriott (I know of o substantial community group which participated in the planning), and decisions were based mostly on how they would affect Marriott profits rather than on community concerns.

Site: The range of candidate sites has not been revealed to us, but the Marriott people were questioned why they might not build at 61 St. Street and the Midway Plaisance, which would create less of a parking problem and "structural congestion." (Dr. Rosenfeld: This is hardly a "seedy area.") The Marriott response was that the 61st Street site would not sell as well to potential visitors.

Size: Many have questioned why we need a 380-room hotel. Surely it is more than we need for university and community purposes. The answer again was this this size favored profitability.

Style: It is ultimately a matter of taste, but most people I have spoke to think the design is not what we want at the gateway of the university community. I have not heard a single exclamation of, "Oh what a beautiful building!" My understanding is that it is not Marriott's top-of-the-line model. Costs and profits again.

Staffing: Dr. Rosenfeld objects to the "quibble about the unionization of jobs that do not exist." There is nothing petty about militating for an employer who pays good wages before "the horse is out of the barn." (Wages are not something one "quibbles about.) Marriott has claimed it pays goo d wages, but we haven't seen the numbers yet and the reluctance to unionize again suggests a primacy of profit motives.

Parking: Marriott proposes a parking garage for 230 vehicles. This may be sufficient for the hotel residents and profitable for Marriott, but unless other huge measures are taken, perking in the area will become a nightmare. Drivers will fill up every available space on the street before they pay a fee for hotel parking. There are available parking spaces in commercial and city lots in downtown Chicago, but how often have found an empty parking space on a downtown street? It might come to pass that ripple overflow from the guests, visitors and staff of large hotel on Stony Island chokes off almost al parking on Stony Island, Harper, Blackstone and Dorchester avenues and 57th and 59th Streets. Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) should be getting on top of this issue NOW.

So it is not simply a matter of whether or not we want a hotel. There are several areas in which community needs come in conflict with the profit motive, and these must be addressed. Certainly, the hotelier are entitled to a profit, and we will not get a hotel unless the hotelier can anticipate a reasonable profit. But so far, it seems that at every turn the balance has tilted in favor of hotel profits. In spite of what Dr. Rosenfeld has surmised, I believe that the overwhelming sentiment at the International House meeting favored more attention to community needs and concerns.


Pablo Denes in August 8 Herald says the university just doesn't get it.

I attended the recent community meeting at the International House to discuss the University of Chicago's plan to build two Marriott hotels at the site of the now-defunct Doctors Hospital. The community turned out in large numbers and many concerns were expressed. I asked two simple questions that I considered of importance to the quality of life of the immediate neighborhood: 1) What business plan exists that would assure the long-term survival of the hotels? 2) What will be the environmental impact of the new buildings on the surrounding buildings? The answers were: We looked at the business model, it suits us and we are complying with city codes regarding the environmental impact.

Well, thank you, but this is not good enough of an answer for my neighbors or me. I have lived in Vista Homes for 32 years and have been a Hyde Park resident for 37 years. My home is also an investment and for me to support this project, I want to know how it will affect the value of my property and taxes. What happens if this hotel follows the history of all previous Hyde Park hotels? What if the sewers flood, water pressure drops and electric power decreases even with city code compliance?

From the answer I was given I assume that they do not care about my home or quality of life, they only care about their business model, which is a mystery to me as every past hotel in the community has closed its doors for lack of business.

The university has brought some quality architecture to the neighborhood in the past. We are the eastern to the campus. Why diminish the architectural value of the buildings now? Most important, why antagonize the neighborhood? Why not work in partnership with the community and listen to our issues? Show the Hyde Park community that finally "you get the message."

Matthew Adkins says Once it's here, we'll have no choice. Herald, August 29.

It has been suggested that labor issue shouldn't be discussed until after the White Lodging Marriott Hotel has been built to replace Doctors Hospital. This makes no sense. Once that enormous custom-built structure is completed, there will be no choice but to accept White Lodging on its own terms or be left with a white elephant.

In July, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama walked the picket line at the Congress Hotel downtown with people from UNITE HERE, the same organization opposing White Lodging's handling of this project. What will the senator make of the university's efforts to bring similar labor practices to his own community?

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Four Maroon takes on Drs Hospital

Community leaders decry hotel plans. Sept/ 29. 2007. By Dasha Vinogradsky

Community members and union activists have cried fowl at plans to convert the Hyde Park Doctors Hospital into a hotel and conference center, claiming that the management company selected by the University is anti-union and that the proposal would destroy the architecturally significant building.

The University has named White Lodging Services, an Indianapolis-based company that runs over 200 hotels nationwide, to operate a Marriott Hotel and Fairfield Inn and Suite at the Doctors Hospital. The U of C bought the site, located at 5800 South Stony Island Avenue, for $10.1 million at a 2006 auction after the hospital, which operated from 1992 to 2000, filed for bankruptcy over a Medicare/Medicaid billing scandal.

White Lodging Services has considerable financial ties to the University, and pro-labor community members have expressed outrage at the selection of a company that operates no unionized hotels. Billionaire Dean White and his son, Bruce White, own White Lodging, and are considered "friends of the University" by the Alumni House; Bruce White has been a trustee for University of Chicago Hospitals and served as a co-chairman of the U of C's Children's Hospital and a member of the Hospital's Executive Committee. According to the Hospitals' 2004 Annual Report, White Lodging donated an amount between $250,00 and $999,999 to the University.

"We have been approached by many hotel operators, but no deal has ever come to fruition, primarily due to perceptions of the weakness of the market," said Hank Webber, vice president of the Office of Community and Government Affairs, in an e-mail. "Several years ago, White Lodging, an excellent hotel operator interested in helping the University meet its need for a hotel and fully fund the building of the hotel and conference center, approached us. After consideration, we decided to partner with White Lodging."

Community and union leaders have decried the selection of the management company. "The union standard in Chicago is a wage of $13.20 per hour," said Alexis Canalos, a representative of the Unite Here 1 union. "White Lodging also does not follow healthcare standards and puts affordable healthcare completely out of the reach of employees." "The wages in Chicago are constantly going up with the cost of living," said Heather White, a union member. "Seven dollars an hour isn't going to work. If white Lodging stays in this area and its employees live in this area, they won't be able to make it, not at all. They will be pinching penny for penny.

The Doctors Hospital, also known as the Illinois Central Community Hospital, was built in 1915 by Schmidt, Garden, and Martin and designed in a colonial revival style with Georgian details. It is one of Chicago Historic Resources Survey's 9,600 citywide properties considered significant to the surrounding community, though not an official city landmark. On September 20, Chicago Landmarks, an advocacy organization interested in protection of historic buildings, placed the Hospital on its annual published Chicagoland Watch List.

"It's an important building because it has a history and was a hospital building that served the community for a long time. It fits with the buildings surrounding it, like Vista Homes, Jackson Towers, and the Museum of Science and Industry," said Jack spicer, chairman of the Hyde Park Historical Society's preservation committee.

To help find lan alternative to the potential demolition of the Doctors Hospital, the Hyde Park Historical Society enlisted Landmarks Illinois to conduct an alternative study for the Hospital and its potential reuse. Landmarks Illinois selected a Denver-based architect to present his findings in the coming weeks. "The architect has worked with Marriott franchise before and has a lot of experience putting Marriott hotels into historic buildings," said Lisa DiChiera, director of Advocacy at Landmarks Illinois. "The White Lodging franchise has never dealt with historic buildings. They have a formula by design, the stuff you expect to see off the freeway. Our architect feels very confident that the building could be adapted or converted."

The hotel and conference center plan will have 380 rooms; 250 units in the Marriott and 130 units in the fairfield Inn and Suites. If the current structure is reused, an additional building will have to be built behind it, according to DiChiera.

Still, many agree that Hyde Park needs a hotel to accommodate family members of patients at the Hospital and visitors to academic conferences, family weekends, and the neighborhood at large.

"I'm nervous for Hyde Park," said Brad Jones, owner of Powell's bookstore. "We have a coalition of different issues whether it's parking or whether it's the union side or whether it's the preservation of it. This is the problem of Hyde Park--things don't get done. It's important to look at peripheral issues, but sometimes we look at those to the detriment of the whole project. A hotel would be a great economic engine for Hyde Park." Other issues concerning the plan include increased congestion, lack of parking, and obscured views of Lake Michigan.

"We are working through the process of responding to public comments," [Webber] said. "Developments of this kind undergo changes, and we're in that process right now."


Hyde Park activists miss the Point. By Alec Brandon

If you look around Hyde Park, you can still see vestiges of the last big push by it community activists. "Save the Point" read torn bumper stickers and sun-worn signs adorning residential windows around town. [discussion of Point issue]

..Unfortunately, this heartwarming story of advocacy has been grossly misconstrued by Hyde Park activists. The past few years have seen community "leaders" try to block even the smallest changes to Hyde Park's status quo. They have demanded that the U of C bring in an operator to the abandoned movie theater in Harper Court (as opposed to knocking it down and putting in shops), threatened legal action to keep Harper Court an artisan cooperative, tried to stop the construction of condominiums across the street from the Windermere, and now--worst of all--they have threatened to block the U of C's proposed construction of a Marriott and a Fairfield Inn on the site that presently houses the Doctors Hospital.

Community activists have confused the groundswell of popular support they received when trying to "save the Point" with popular support for keeping Hyde Park the way it is, regardless of the ramifications. And while the Point revetment was a fairly open and shut case....tearing down the Doctors Hospital and putting in two hotels is far more complex.

For starters, this issue concerns private property, not public land. The fact that so many community activists had the opportunity to buy the Doctors Hospital last year means that the threshold needed to block th U of C's actions is much higher than in the case of the Point. These activists attempt to meet the threshold with a twofold argument.

First, they cite the beauty and architectural importance or the Doctors Hospital and wish that the U of C would just adapt the present building. I don't mean to be insensitive to these claims, but has anyone ever heard of Schmidt, Garden and Martin (the building's architects)? It is one thing to preserve buildings that are great American landmarks. It's another to save a building so that a few architects can come and look at it every couple decades. Put simply, the Doctors Hospital isn't a landmark in any sense of the word.

But on top of tha, the prospective hotel company has made it clear that there aren't really any other feasible sites for a hotel in Hyde Park and that renovating the Doctors Hospital is not an option--it is, after all, a 1920s-era hospital. So that means protecting the Doctors Hospital is tantamount to ensuring that an empty, boarded-up building stays that way for generations to come. The Hyde Park Historical Society might think the building fits in beautifully with the surrounding architecture, but I just find it depressing.

The second past of the anti-hotel argument involves the past labor practices of White Lodging, the company that would manage the new hotels. This means that activists don't like how White Lodging hasn't allowed unionization in the other hotels it manages. So let me get this straight: These are presently no jobs created by the Doctors Hospital, and the U of C wants to put in two hotels, a Starbucks, and a restaurant that would create, oh I don't know, more than zero jobs.

This isn't a case of a company coming in and potentially destroying union jobs, like Wal-Mart is often accused of doing. The U of C would be creating hundreds of jobs where there are non, and the community is upset because they aren't union jobs. Talk about missing the bottom line.

But more to the point: Is the direction these leaders are taking us where we want to end up? "Malaise" would be too gentle a word to describe the condition of Hyde Park. bringing in a hotel might make finding a parking spot a little more difficult, and allowing commercial development might mean that a few old buildings will be torn down, but these are small prices to pay for the jobs that it would create and the new life it would breath into our dead neighborhood.

And January 15 2008 editorial chastises critics, blockers but urges every effort to make compromise work.

One would think that a trade that is beneficial to both sides would get done without much hassle. Unfortunately, reaching a meeting of minds between Hyde Park community members and University administration has never been that simple. In the latest example, Ward 5 Alderman Leslie Hairston has blocked the U of C's proposal to build a much-needed hotel in the spot now occupied by the Doctors Hospital at E. 58th Street and South Stony Island Avenue. Building a hotel in Hyde Park constitutes a change in zoning law, which requires Hairston's approval.

The plan should be a no-brainer. The benefits to the University are self-evident: The facility would provide a convenient place for parents, visiting professors, and prospective students to stay. The rest of the community would profit from the new jobs created and the new restaurants and retail that are bound to follow. This, however, is not enough for some in the community, whose opposition is two-fold.

The Hyde Park Historical Society and other preservationists claim that the 93-year-old, long vacant Doctors Hospital is worth saving because of its status as an architectural landmark . As of now, though, the building is a major eyesore, largely because it is no longer in use. The University should explore the option of revamping the current building to meet the needs of a hotel. More specifically, White Lodging- the company that would manage the hotel- and the University should seriously consider the counter-proposal recently put forward by the Historical Society and and architectural firm. As a last resort, the University should be prepared to provide financial incentives to White Lodging to secure the deal.

Some community members also take issue with White Lodging's use of non-unionized labor. However, with no other firm apparently ready to take White Lodging's place, what Hairston doesn't seem to realize is that the choice isn't between unionized and non-unionized jobs-it's between jobs and no jobs. The alderman should drop the demand that the hotel company provide union jobs.

Alderman Hairston has vowed to follow community sentiment on this issue. What is the whole neighborhood's sentiment on this issue? Certainly its loudest members have voiced opposition, but do they speak for everyone? In this case, the dedication of a few can serve to distort the will of many. A hotel would be a win-win for the community and the University. The sides must meet halfway to ensure the plans become a reality. Top


Doctors without boarders. May 13 2008 Maroon cites need for hotel and for development of this site, but calls for University to retake control and compromise with preservationists, alderman.

In the two years since the former Doctors Hospital on South Stony Island Avenue was purchased by the U of C, it has done little but gather dust and stir up controversy. The current controversy began when the U of C hired the hotel management company White Lodging to design, build, and operate a proposed Marriott Hotel and Fairfield Inn at the former hospital's site.

The collaboration with White Lodging, which does not allow its workers to unionize, displeased some in the community. In addition, White Lodging's plans to completely tear down the old hospital upset preservationists, who argue that the hospital is historically and architecturally significant. Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston, whose approval is needed to build the proposed hotels, has refused to sign off on the plan in part due to these complaints.

The next move is up to White Lodging. It seems likely that Hairston would give the green light to building hotels if White Lodging can agree with the preservationists, a group of whom has commissioned an alternate proposal that would preserve the old hospital's exterior. The plan was delivered to White Lodging in November, but the hotel operator did not meet its self-imposed January deadline by which many expected it to make a decision. Given White Lodging's tardiness and silence, the project seems to be in jeopardy.

Lost in the back and forth is the reason the U of C bought the Hospital in the first place. The proposed Marriott and Fairfield Inn would provide a more convenient alternative for prospective students, visiting parents, and guest speakers who would otherwise be force to sty downtown. Furthermore, the hotel would bring in jobs and stimulate local businesses.

The University must step in to break the impasse. To call the crumbling hospital a "historical landmark" is more than a little generous, but working with the preservationists is the most feasible option. The University should entice White Lodging to accept the alternative plan, which allows for the same number of hotel rooms as was originally proposed.

Preservationists claim that government funds dedicated to restoring old buildings could make preserving the hospital more cost-effective than tearing it down--but if this was true, it is unclear why the development company would balk at the proposal. The University should provide White Lodging with the financial incentive necessary to offset any additional costs. It is well worth the University's money to subsidize maintenance of the building's facade if such a concession would provide Hyde Park with a major hotel complex.

The University has made it clear that it would rather facilitate communication between the parties than intervene directly. Given the fragile nature of town-gown relations, this strategy is perhaps understandable, but so long as the U of c sits on the sidelines, the Doctors Hospital will be little more than a landmark to petty controversy.

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More commentary

Herald October 17 07: Hospital talks must include residents

The biggest news you won't read about in the Herald this week is a much-anticipated meeting between Landmarks Illinois (LI), the Hyde Park Historical Society, Fifth ward Ald. Leslie Hairston, White Lodging and the University of Chicago regarding the alternative development plan for Doctors Hospital, 5800 S. Stony Island Ave. Rumors of meeting dates have been swirling around the newsroom for weeks, and we are eagerly anticipating a final confirmation.

The future of Doctors Hospital brightened a bit recently as LI added the building to its 2007-2008 Chicagoland Watch list. Perhaps even more importantly, the group announced that they will present a plan that preserves Doctors Hospital to t he university and Hairston for review.

The university's recent announcement of a plan to replace the historic hospital with a pair of hotels built by developers White Lodging has many Hyde Parkers concerned. Not only is the building orange-rated, or "potentially significant," in the city's Historic Resource Survey (one of fewer than 10,000 across the city), the community was handed a plan that presumes Sectors Hospital should be torn down--without public input. Should LI's plan prove feasible, the university's assumption, absent public discussion regarding reuse, seems premature.

We urge all parties to arrange this meeting as soon as possible. LI is reportedly--and understandably--reluctant to release details of the plan to the public until it is presented to the owner and the developer. Delay of the meeting--which has been cancelled at least once already--means delay of public distribution of of critical information regarding a piece of our neighborhood's historic building stock.

Every time a historic property is wiped off the Hyde Park map, we lose an irreplaceable bit of the history of our community. In this instance, the loss is compounded by the fact that the building at risk is on the Historic resources Survey. The list, developed under Marian [Despres]'s watchful eye while she served on the Chicago Landmarks Commission, is a comprehensive review of our city's historic housing stock and therefore an invaluable tool for managing change in our community. We have few tools to slow the rush to build that is a mantra among Chicago developers. We should use them all to maximum effect.

We applauded LI for their continued advocacy on behalf of our region's historic built environment--and especially Hyde Park's historic properties. Their regular Watch Lists are another valuable device for raising consciousness about historic properties t hat may not have been saved without the heightened visibility the list affords. The nearby Chicago Defender building, at 2400 S. Michigan Ave., is a good example. Put on the list last year, the trouble property caught the eye of a noted preservationist and restaurateur, who is now busily planning a new future for the historic building.

If reuse is possible, as LI is suggesting, Hyde Park deserves an open discussion regarding what alternatives are available, and that conversation should take place as soon as possible.

Maryal Stone Dale- Keep watch on university's Drs. Hospital plans

...I as greatly surprised to find a student intern at University of Chicago Magazine writing as if plans for hotels...had been signed off on and delivered without any more community input.

The idea that t he university's hospital complex--which has already absorbed an incredible amount of territory (and homes) near/on campus--has to have a hotel for its customers on Stony Island is not by any means a "done deal" so far as the Hyde Park community is concerned. There are any unanswered questions and concerns about the U. of C.'s plan to allow an alum to build two ugly skyscrapers across the street from the Museum of Science and Industry and turn Stony Island into a commercial strip without adequate parking.

Any hotel serving the hospitals belongs at the other end of the Midway, most probably in Woodlawn where there is still plenty of room for development. A smaller version of their grandiose scheme to provide two hotels, a ballroom, three restaurants and a conference center, which used the historic Illinois Central Hospital, would be one thing. But their current plan is overkill. If they had to have all that stuff (for the hospitals?), they should have planned on using the Midway itself, or perhaps, like th Mayor, taking over Jackson and Washington Parks.

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Linda Corby says Hotel should go to the Harper Court site. Prescient!! Herald, Nov. 7 2007

There has been much discussion of two Hyde Park development proposals--the hotel planned for the Doctors Hospital site on Stony Island Avenue and the ale and redevelopment of Harper Court. According to the Herald, the University of Chicago has explored the idea of buying Harper Court. The university should purse that acquisition while at the same time working with the city to secure development rights for the parking lot at Lake Park Avenues and 53rd Street.

Then, build the proposed hotel on the Lake Park/Harper Court site. There are benefits to this approach.

First the area around the Lake Park parking lot and Harper Court is already a vital commercial spot with activities that would attract hotel guests. There are several good restaurants within walking distance. Borders is there, as is the Checkerboard Lounge. And, the proximity of the Metra would provide hotel guests with easy access to downtown and North Side activities.

Second, the influx of hotel guest will help existing businesses and bring new commercial development along 53rd street that will benefit all Hyde Park residents.

Third, the neighborhood around the Doctors Hospital is largely residential. There will be ongoing conflicts between local residents and the hotel over parking, traffic, noise and a host of other issues. These conflicts will be eliminated if the hotel is located in the commercial area along Lake Park Avenue and 53rd Street.

Encouraging the University, the alderman, the Harper Court Board and the city to pursue this could be very beneficial to our community.

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Michael W. Hoke points to a good, non-intrusive hotel design ( a Marriott) at Harrison and Ashland that fits in well with a residential neighborhood. He would like to save the building but is not sure that is feasible.

Yael Hoffman reiterates how badly a hotel is needed and hopes the university and community can come together.

Susan Boone says the hotels should be split- the short stay on Stony, the longer stay near UC Hospitals.