Friday, August 1, 2008

Developers say they won't save Doctors Hospital

White Lodging, the development company planning the construction of a Marriott Hotel and Fairfield Inn and Suites on the site of the former Hyde Park Doctors Hospital at 5800 S. Stony Island has rejected a proposal presented by preservationists that would have incorporated the historic building into the project.

The Hyde Park Herald reported this week that the company had sent a letter to preservationists, who hired their own architect to develop the alternative proposal that would prevent the building's demolition. In the letter, White Lodging's VP for development concluded that after careful consideration of the proposal, the company had deemed it unfeasible.

The announcement puts to rest rumors that had been circulating in recent months about the possibility that White Lodging was considering other sites for the Hotel.

One of the most interesting passages of the letter quoted by the Herald seems to portend no slowing down for the University's continued development across Hyde Park and Woodlawn, where it owns and has been buying up many properties. According to White Lodging's VP for development:

"...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."

The decision represents a stinging setback for neighborhood activists who have long-advocated, in cooperation with the Landmarks Illinois, for the building's preservation. The University bought the property for $10 million at a September, 2006, auction.

Immediate plans are unclear, but both White Lodging and the architect of the alternative plan have said they will continue negotiations. The developers will make a presentation to the community at an open forum hosted by Ald. Leslie Hairston August 5 at Bret Harte Elementary School at 1556 E. 56th St., at 6 P.M.

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