Michael Reese landmark supporters hit road block

August 6, 2009 (CHICAGO) The Commission on Chicago Landmarks denied The Gropius in Chicago Coalition's current proposal to preserve the Near South Side campus.

The group plans to resubmit a proposal but has less than a month to try to sway the commission. They want to prevent the destruction of the former hospital, which is the proposed site of the Chicago 2016 Olympic Village.

To gain landmark status for the site, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks would need to submit a nomination for the Michael Reese Hospital to the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council by September 11, 2009. That nomination would put the former hospital and most of its campus on track to becoming a National Historic Landmark.

Chicago 2016 plans to turn the site into part of the proposed Olympic Village should the city win the 2016 Olympic Games.

The Gropius in Chicago Coalition says it believes the hospital buildings are significant because they were created by German born architect Walter Gropius. The Reese campus holds the only collection of Gropius architecture in the state of Illinois.

Grahm Balkany of the Gropius in Chicago Coalition authored the nomination. "Michael Reese Hospital contains a vast collection of [Walter] Gropius styles," said Balkany.

"Regardless if we get the Olympics or not, these Gropius buildings can be restored and used for other purposes," said Preservation Chicago Executive Director Jonathan Fine at Thursday's meeting.

Commission member Phyllis Ellin says that it is possible for certain parts of the campus to receive National Historic Landmark status, but the current plan should be revised to meet National Register criteria.

"New boundaries need to be created [for landmark designation]," said Ellin during the meeting.

Many individuals from architectural, preservation, and historical organizations addressed the Commission on Chicago Landmarks during the meeting. No one in attendance spoke out against the proposed landmark status.

Balkany says he will continue to work toward landmark status for the former hospital.

According to Balkany, Gropius' work is admired throughout the world. Gropius is perhaps best known in Chicago for his second place finish of the Tribune Tower competition of 1922.

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