Former Doctors Hospital (Illinois Central Hospital) redevelopment: UC turns from a hotel project to a creating a new pre and primary Lab School campus

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See archived Hotel Project reports and discussion. February 11 2010 public meeting summary

At the end of 2009, the University decided to use the site (presumably after teardown) for an 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. Decision seems to be based on concerns about enough space and site conditions (and future problems with student drop off) at Kenwood and 59th and 58th (Lillie and Wilder Houses and the soccer field, which it wanted to keep). The University may also have decided it might as well use the Doctors site (voted dry in 2008 by opponents of the hotel plan, for its own facilities. Growth of the Lab School is a top priority of the University, for the Lab School itself and one of the things it has to offer to entice faculty. Note that the hotel plan has moved to Harper Court and shrunk as a 150 room boutique, closer to what many think are true demand.

Plans were presented at meetings, not well advertized and poorly attended. Plans were well received although with some concerns for the Stony Island component about kids safety and separation of the grades. The plans were in November 2010 in the 90-day hold pattern for demolition of Orange-rated historic structures.
Demolition of Drs Hospital began in February 2011.

And it has been stated by the University that historic-rated Lillie House at 58th and Kenwood will NOT be demolished for any expansion.

Update on the April 15 2010 meeting. By Jane Ciacci, HPKCC Vice President.

Attendance at Lab School meeting last week was ... less than 10 people. However, we had a chance to ask questions. The plan includes renovations to the “historic” Lab School buildings [including a new arts wing partway into Scammon Garden] as well as building the ECC where Doctors’ is. The Wilder and Lillie houses will not be affected. I think that the design concept for the new school is terrific, but I am still not satisfied that they have the parking and pickup-dropoff issues worked out. Also, the University is still reserving a strip of land right next to the Vista as they did with the hotel plan, and I am certain they have some idea of building something there later.

Herald April 21 2010. By Sam Cholke

The University of Chicago on April 15 said it would move forward with building a new early childhood center for the Laboratory School at the Doctors Hospital site.

The university in February presented three options for a new center, including demolishing the existing structure and rebuilding at Doctors hospital, 5800 S. Stony Island Ave., reusing the hospital or building adjacent to the existing school along 59th Street at the southern end of Jackman Field. Building adjacent to the existing school was deemed infeasible because it would eliminate too much open space from teh campus and would exacerbate current traffic problems, according to Steve Wiesenthal, university architect.

The reuse of Doctors Hospital building was ruled out at the February meeting because the existing structure's internal load-bearing walls could not be moved to accommodate larger classrooms. Demolishing and rebuilding on the Doctors Hospital site is the most cost effective option, said Joe Valerio, architect for the new center and the existing campus renovation, at the February meeting.

"We're fairly far along now," Arnold Randall,... too the 15 people who attended the recent meeting. "We're going to have one final meeting to show you what it looks like and then we're going to go with it." The new center will allow the lab school to expand to a student body of 2,050. "We're anticipating growing the school and adding more students, and we feel we're at capacity now in dealing with the traffic the current numbers bring us," said Carla Young, principal of the nursery and kindergarten at the Lab School, in an e-mail April 16. "In the new building on Stony Island, there would be a wy for cars to go behind and around the building, so parents are off of the city streets while they're waiting for students. Right now that whole process takes place on a city street."

The new early childhood center will be the first phase in a six-year long renovation of the Lab School buildings. After the new center is complete, the university will begin construction of a new arts wing on the north end of the existing campus. The new arts wing will replace the workshop wing and wil extend about 40 feet into the Scammon Gardens at the rear of the school. "We tried to keep the penetration as minimal as possible," Valeria said.

A phased renovation of the existing campus wil occur concurrently with the construction of teh arts wing. Teh renovation will include new roofs on all buildings, tuck-pointing on exterior walls and replacement of interior mechanical and electrical systems. The university could not immediately provide cost estimates for teh construction oft he early childhood center or the arts wing. Top

Chicago Maroon April 20, 2010. Lab campus to expand. By Elie Fuchs-Gosse

The Lab School's Early Childhood Center will likely be built at the site of the Doctors Hospital at 58th street adn Stony Island Avenue, University officials and a representative from the architectural firm FGM announced at a meeting in Judd Hall Tuesday. Plans for a new Art Wing on the main campus were also announced. The plans for teh Early Childhood Center, which will specialize in kindergarten to second-grade education, include a large pick-up and drop-off facility in order to lessen he impact on Stony Island Avenue traffic in the mornings and afternoons. The new buildings are intended to architecturally complement their surroundings. Construction has been scheduled to end in 2013.

The Lab Schools' mail campus at 59th and Dorchester Avenue had also been considered as a possible site at the first meeting announcingplans to build the center in February.

The Arts Wing is slated to include space for art and music classes and will be added onto the Lab Schools' main campus. "The Schools' arts classes are currently held in classrooms designed for other purposes," FGM spokesman Joe Chronister said, commenting on the need for a distinct arts area.

A woman who described herself as a "neighbor of the construction" expressed concern over the noise and material hazards of the proposed construction at stony Island. "We'll be working on mitigating noise and dust as we proceed," Chronister replied. he said his firm aha a "dust and noise mitigation plan" in addition to following standard municipal construction regulations.

According to the University, there will likely be one more meeting on the expansion plans this summer.

This page will now focus on the plans for the Lab School, their reception, and execution. Expectations re process.

Jane Ciacci, who attended the public meeting on February 11 2010, comments: The audience seemed to be mainly Lab School parents, with a few neighbors thrown in. The main bone of contention in the audience seemed to be the pick-up and drop-off issue, how the separation of the campuses would affect that, and the fact that the Lab School has such a car-centric culture. Plans for both sites were presented, but the school and the architects clearly favor the Stony Island site, and it does give them more options. She adds that the decision appears to have been made. To her it seems far preferable to the Hotel plan. There will still be a reserved green play area separating from Vista Homes, but UC reserves the option to develop that later.

From the Chicago Maroon, January 15, 2010. By Asher Klein

The University is exploring a plan to build an Early Childhood Center (ECC) for the Lab School on the ist of th Doctors Hospital, the center of 2008's controversial dry-vote campaign. If approved, the ECC would be designed exclusively for students through the second grade, University spokesman Steve Kloehn said Part of a major Lab School expansion underway since July 2007, the ECC would provide more space for the young students in a more open design teachers think is conducive to learning at early ages....

Kloehn emphasized that the plan for an ECC is neither fully developed nor settled within the University. Furthermore, the Hyde Park community has been and will continue to be involved in planning and approving whatever replaces the ECC, he said. "In the coming weeks, there will be some public meetings convened by the alderman and the University to lay out the possibilities on the Stony Island site," Kloehn said.

A smaller "group of people who can hear the ideas, react, and raise issues they think are important to the conversation" has already met with University officials, he said, but did not have specific information about the group.

Kloehn also said any final plan will have to apply for a permit to change the intended use of the site (a process involving local elected officials, public meetings and the city) wand would also have to pass inspection for demolition.

Lab School Director David W. Magill announced th plan to a parents' council on Monday, Kloehn said, although N-2 faculty were told in December and planning has been underway for a year. The Lab School hopes to increase its class size to a little more than 2,000 form 1,780. It has raised $30 million dollars for the initiative in to-and-a-half years.

In the February 7 Maroon, reporter Hannah Fine says there are divergent apprehensions about yet another proposal process for the Drs Hospital site. Any plan will require a zoning change and permit hence support of the alderman, who insists on community input. Jack Spicer told the Maroon the University would do better if it changed its communication strategy so the community "doesn't feel it's being hustled." Treat "the community as a partner, not the enemy. Sometimes the phrase 'civic engagement' can have a certain Orwellian quality when used by the University." He said he has not seen evidence of a positive change so far. On th other hand, Ald. Hairston said such fears are unfounded: "The approach of the University will be different this time. the wil actually talk with people in the community." Lauren Polite of the Lab School PTA sid the said the site selection isn't even fixed yet. The main reason for expansion, she said, is to open up the school to more diversity-- i.e. not just to UC faculty (implication that that is not really diverse?). Polite said there has been a lot of communication and process within the school and with parents.


From Hyde Park Herald, January 20, 2010. By Sam Cholke.

The University of Chicago Laboratory School is in the market for a new early childhood education center, and according to teh school's director, Doctors Hospital may be a good option. David Magill, the director of the Lab School, said on Jan. 13 that the Doctors Hospital site, 5800 S. Stony Island Ave., would provide several benefits over expanding o n campus. The new center would be home to the nursery through 2nd grade programs.

The site would alleviate some of the traffic congestion around the main campus, 1362 E. 59th St., and add outdoor play space for students, according to Magill. Students would lose some of the benefits of being so close to their older peers, however, he said.

The existing Doctors Hospital building is unsuitable for the programs the Lab School intends to move, and university architects advised razing the building and constructing a new center on the site, Magill said.

The Lab School is still early in the process of selecting a site for expansion and several locations are being considered, according to Steve Kloehn, a spokesman for the university. Maintaining the existing building is one option being considered, he said. Other options being considered include building a new facility facing 59th Street at Dorchester Avenue, according to Magill. the site would facilitate greater interaction between students of different ages and their parents, he said. Building on campus would mean sacrificing the Jackman Field soccer pitch or the adjoining tennis courts, he said.

The university will host a public meeting to discuss options for Lab School expansion in February. Magill said teachers and faculty have been supportive of building a new facility at teh Doctors Hospital site. "The reaction has been very, very positive," Magill said. "I've been pleasantly surprised that there has been almost uniform agreement that this could be terrific.:

...The Lab School began planning the expansion and renovation of it facilities in June, boosted by a $10 million gift from the Earl Shapiro family. The school plans to increase enrolment to 2,050 students from 1,780. Magill said the school would also hire new teachers and staff, expand the number of divisions and bolster a neglected arts program. The school will maintain the same student student-teacher ratio, Magill said.

There is "unprecedented demand" for a larger Lab School from community members and incoming faculty, Magill said. "Faculty are changing, and they are bringing younger kies," he said. The University of Chicago is expanding faculty ranks for teh first time in nearly a decade. University faculty and prospective faculty receive priority attention during the application process at the Lab School.

A 2007 report by the Wall Street Journal ranked Lab School as one of the top five high schools in the nation, with 19.3 percent of seniors going to top tier colleges, including Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Williams, Pomona, Swarthmore, the University of Chicago, and Johns Hopkins.


Maryal Stone Dale in a Herald letter dated February 3, 2010, said that a Lab School location at Drs Hospital will have to overcome some issues. Traffic, esp. at drop off and pickup (and temptation to kids to dash across Stony Island into the park incl. if kids are to be taken into the park.)


Attendees at the (low attendance) February 11 2010 public meeting said use of Doctors Hospital site seems likely, given architect's rejection of 59th and 58th options and call that reusing the present structure unfeasible, desire for a low spread-out facility. Parents' main concern was over dividing the campus (and duplications such as a library), countered by relief of drop off/pick up problems with current configuration. There was not an outcry about losing the Drs Hospital structure (but those who presented an alternative to the hotel plan involving reuse of the present structure may try again).
According to Jack Spicer, specific reasons given by UC for demolishing rather than reusing Drs Hospital were:

Herald February 17, 2010. Doctor's Hospital for Lab kids? Proposal would clear site through demolition; architects reject alternatives; traffic called "scary." by Sam Cholke.

The University of Chicago laid out options for a new early childhood education center Feb. 1[1] that strongly leaned to using a cleared Doctors Hospital site on Stony Island Avenue. At the first public meeting on the expansion of the Laboratory School, university administrators laid out options that included building on the Jackman Field soccer field adjacent to the current school, reusing the vacant Doctors Hospital building at 5800 S. Stony Island Ave., and tearing down the hospital to build a new facility on the site.

Architects from Valerio Dewalt Train and FGM Architects, hired by the university in early 2009 to design the expanded school, said reusing Doctors Hospital and building on Jackman Field were both infeasible. Building on 59th Street would require a three-story building that would conflict with a plan to keep nursery and kindergarten classrooms on the first floor, according to Joe Valerio of Valerio Dewalt Train. The 1914 colonial revival Doctors Hospital building is designed with internal load bearing walls, which means expanding the building's tiny patient rooms would be extremely difficult and costly, according to Joe Chronister, and architect with FGM.

The city's Landmarks Division has rated the building orange, which puts a 90-day hold on any request to demolish the building . "What we're really looking for is a low, wide building and what we have is a tall, narrow building ," Chronister said.

The best option is to demolish Doctors Hospital and build a new facility on the site, according to Valerio. it would also be the cheapest option, he said. Despite the added costs of cleaning up a contaminated hospital site and demolishing the structure, the option of building a lower and wider building would save money, according to Valerio. Building on 49th Street would also require extensive use of limestone cladding on the building to match the existing campus, he said. The Stony Island plans also call for limestone, but to a lesser degree.

Building on the Doctors Hospital site was well received by the more than 50 parents, teachers and community members at the meeting, largely because it would relieve traffic at the current Lab School campus. "This site really helps us ensure the safety of the students," said Marie Randazzo, a nursery school teacher at Lab School. "It's a scary endeavor every day where you have this crazy traffic pattern."

Locating the school on Stony Island Avenue would allow for a circular drive that looks around the back of the building with room for about 60 cars to pick up students off of the major thoroughfare. The site would also provide 70 off-street parking spaces for the roughly 75 staff members that will work in the new center.

The initial design for the building is reminiscent of a blocky figure eight, with two courtyards ringed by 30 classrooms. The architects will seek certification as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, building.

The new building will allow the school's student body to expand by about 300 student, according to David Magill, director of the Lab School. The traditional ratio of students is begriming to skew heavily towards teh children of university-affiliated parents, according to Magill. Traditionally, the balance has been 50-50; in the lower grades, now more than two-thirds of students are the children of university-affiliated parents [who pay lower tuition] parents, he said. "Without adding spaces, there will be fewer spaces for non-university students," he said.

The expanded school would be the fifth largest independent school in the nation with a student body of about 2,050 students, according to Magill.


Chicago Maroon, February 16, 2010. Two sites proposed for Lab School expansion. By Asher Klein

The University unveiled two proposals Thursday for an Early Childhood Learning Center (ECC), to be built by the Lab Schools by 1013. The plans call for an early education-specific building to be constructed on the school's current campus at 59th Street and Dorchester Avenue or on the site of the Doctors Hospital, at 58th Street and Sony Island Avenue. University officials, architects from firms FGM and VDTA, Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie hairston, and Lab School Director David [Magill] spoke to an audience of around 80 in the Lab Schools' Judd Hall.

Lab Schools have and obligation to accept a certain number of University-affiliated children, but historically, they are balanced by an equal number of unaffiliated students. [Magill] said the ECC project is part of a larger Lab expansion aimed at rectifying a growing disparity between those groups, which ration he placed at 65-to-35. "It is really squeezing but the neighborhood children, and that has not been the tradition of the Lab School," [Magill] said.

The expansion would make Lab the fifth-largest independent school in the nation, [Magill] said, with 650 students in the ECC (from kindergarten to second grade) and 1,400 from grades 3-12. The ECC would be a well lit, large space, [Magill] said, with easy access outdoors no matter where it is built. "Children learn best when they are extremely engaged in their learning," he said.

[Magill] outlined the pros and cons of each site. Building the ECC on the Doctors Hospital site would allow for an airier building and more room for parking, but would split Lab into two campuses, on either side of the METRA track To address this, the school may bus students from one site to the other to prevent families with children in each from having to travel across Hyde Park.

An ECC on the current Lab Schools site wouldn't require busing, but either the tennis courts or soccer field would need to be bulldozed to make room, and the architects said the building would be more constricted.

But economics professor John Cochrane and Hyde Park blogger Elizabeth Fama, Lab parents, asked at the meeting whether moving or removing teh soccer field would be the easiest way to allow the ECC room it needed; demolition of the Doctors Hospital will be costly and is estimated to take three more months than the fields. Community activist Jack Spicer agreed. "Wouldn't you rather be busing kids to a soccer game once and a while... rather than busing little kids over to another site every day during the school year?" Spicer said in an interview. He also attended the meeting.

The Doctors Hospitals architecturally significant, and if that site were chosen, the new building might reflect the Hospital's aesthetic up to a point, FGM spokesman Joe Chronister said, but the demands of and ECC-dedicated space make that difficult. "The issue is that what we're looking for is a low, wide building, and what we have with the existing building is a tall, narrow building," Chronister said.

While the audience expressed some concerns, especially over parking availability and how families will adjust to bringing children tow two different campuses should the Doctors Hospital plan go through, most used a Q&A period to remark on how open the process has been....

Vice President for Civic Engagement [sic] Arnold Randall told the audience that this was the first of many talks the University would hold on the ECC's development, a strategy that arose out of mistakes in how the dispute over the Doctors Hospital was handled. "There was not enough communication, not enough transparency," Randall said. "There were lots of ways for things to go better, and this is one of them."

Robert Norton, who lives in the building just south of Doctors Hospital, said, "I'm very grateful for the open words about missed opportunities and communication with the neighborhood." Spicer said the meeting was fairly run, although he said it seemed the University had made up its mid to develop the Doctors Hospital site, despite protests to the contrary. Spicer was mildly surprised that teh audience did not probe deeper into the presentation, however. "It was a moderately attended meeting and the tone was very businesslike," Spicer said. [The University was] clearly trying to make a quieter, more controlled community conversation, and I think they did so."