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Cuneo Memorial Hospital Landmark Status Denied

By Adeshina Emmanuel | August 19, 2013 8:40am
 Cuneo Memorial Hospital
Cuneo Memorial Hospital
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DNAinfo/Adeshina Emmanuel

UPTOWN — The city declined to grant Cuneo Memorial Hospital landmark status, delivering another blow to Friends of Cuneo, an Uptown community group dedicated to preserving architect Edo Belli's mid-century Modern work.

In July, Friends of Cuneo submitted an application to the Chicago Commission on Landmarks to save Cuneo, on the northeast corner of North Clarendon and West Montrose avenues, and a brutalist addition to the hospital designed by Belli and built on the northwest corner in the 1970s.

The structures, located in the Montrose/Clarendon Tax Increment Financing district at the former site of Maryville Academy, would be demolished as part of JDL Development's plan for luxury housing on the site.

 A developer had a plan to save the former Cuneo Memorial Hospital from the wrecker's ball.
Can Cuneo Be Saved
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Landmark Commission Director Eleanor Gorski sent Uptown Resident and Friends of Cuneo member Melanie Eckner a letter last week saying the commission wouldn't be pursuing landmark status for the building, which the city granted a demolition permit for in May.

Friends of Cuneo announced the "sad news," from the city on its Facebook page Friday.

"Because of existing demolition permits, neither the Landmark Commission nor the Historic Preservation Division will take further action on our proposal for Chicago Landmark status," the group said in a post.

Belli was an award-winning architect who designed many acclaimed churches, schools and hospitals. Preservationists say he helped breathe new life into Roman Catholic architecture in Chicago.

Friends of Cuneo said it would continue to petition both online and off to save his buildings, although the group doesn't have the support of Ald. James Cappleman (46th), whose ward includes most of Uptown.

Cappleman's office said the alderman will back the wishes of the 46th Ward Zoning and Development Committee, an advisory committee that initially voted in February to demolish Cuneo and donate the land to the Chicago Park District.

In April, developer David Baum posed an idea for a privately funded reuse of Cuneo that included gallery space, artist studios, artist housing and a cafe. The committee was intrigued by the prospect and granted him 30 days to survey the property and flesh out his proposal — but he backed out of his plan in May since he could not access the property, according to a spokeswoman.

The alderman's office, however, said that Baum was unresponsive to their inquiries about a business plan for the proposal.

JDL is expected to bring a final proposal before community members in coming 46th Ward zoning meetings. The next meeting is Aug. 26.

Cappleman's office said the Department of Housing and Economic Development will deliver feedback on the JDL plan, including the $32 million TIF subsidy request it includes, before the final proposal goes back before the neighborhood zoning committee — and then to the alderman's desk.

For previous coverage of the fight to save Cuneo Memorial Hospital, click here.