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Northwestern Medicine announces plan to commit $1 billion for research

Updated: February 16, 2013 6:19AM

Northwestern Medicine announced that it plans to commit more than $1 billion for medical research on Monday, though the “linchpin” for the proposed research site is not a done deal.

Northwestern says the centerpiece of the $1 billion investment will be on construction of the new proposed building at the site of the former Prentice Women’s Hospital at 320 E. Huron.

“In order to build a 21st-century biomedical research facility, expand our medical school’s research capacity and ultimately improve patients’ lives, it is imperative that we have a thriving scientific research base,” said Morton Schapiro, Northwestern University president, in a statement.

Northwestern plans to focus on such areas as neuroscience, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

But the necessary approvals from the city of Chicago and resolution of a lawsuit currently pending in Cook County Circuit Court for the Prentice site still need to be resolved before Northwestern can move forward with its plan.

On Friday, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Neil Cohen refused to overturn a decision by Chicago officials to withhold landmark protection from the Streeterville building. But Cohen left in place for another 30 days an order barring its destruction.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, which is fighting to keep the 1975 clover-leaf building designed by Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg, has said it would consider filing an amended suit over the city’s refusal to give the building landmark protection.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, meanwhile, has come out in favor of Northwestern’s plan.

Alan Cubbage, a spokesman for Northwestern, admitted the “timing [of the $1 billion announcement] is coincidental,” but said it was not intended to sway pending decisions about the former Prentice be made in Northwestern’s favor.

Cubbage also said that there is no backup plan if Prentice could not be knocked down.

The school wants to put medical research labs on the Prentice site, a project that it says will bring $390 million a year in economic activity and create 2,000 permanent jobs. That’s $150 million more than Northwestern brings in now, the school says.

“It’s really the linchpin of our plans to expand our research. So we’re very hopeful,” he said.

The money will be raised primarily through fundraising at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and help from Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, amongst others, Cubbage said.

Northwestern declined to divulge how much money has already been raised.

Also on Monday, the University of Chicago unveiled its new $700 million hospital that will open to patients Feb. 23.

The 1.2 million-square-foot, 10-story Hyde Park facility, called the Center for Care and Discovery, has 240 single-occupancy patient rooms designed to accommodate families for overnight stays.

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