STREETERVILLE — Northwestern University and design firm Perkins and Will unveiled new renderings for the research facility planned for 303 E. Superior St. that were well-received by neighbors at a community meeting Tuesday.
Tweaks to their original design, which was chosen from three finalists by the university's Board of Trustees last fall with community input, include rounding some of the buildings edges, adding green roofs and shortening the building's height to 598 feet. That would trim off six floors from the original plan.
Dr. Eric Neilson, dean of Northwestern's medical school and Vice President of Medical Affairs, highlighted the importance of expanding the university's research capabilities to a crowd of area residents Tuesday.
"The greatest healthcare problem of our time is diseases for which we have no answers," he said. "There is not a single thing that happens to patients in doctors' offices or in hospitals that didn't start out as an experiment somewhere."
Lizzie Tufano says neighbors seemed pleased with the changes at a recent meeting:
Residents' comments guided some design changes, including the addition of more trees, widening the pedestrian walkway between the new building and the old Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and adding a "vegetative, kind of undulating green wall" along Huron Street to conceal a loading dock inside the building, according to Bridget Lesniak, managing principal on the project for Perkins and Will.
Along Huron Street at Fairbanks Court, the research center will extend over the Lurie building's one-story outcropping to create more cohesion between the two facilities, Lesniak said.
Several subtle design changes, like rounding some of the building's corners and adding different textures to the interiors, were designed to "follow the established Northwestern Hospital campus aesthetic," Lesniak said.
"The vocabulary that's been established, we're going to continue across our site," she said.
The new research facility, which replaces Prentice Women's Hospital on the university's Chicago campus, will be built in two phases.
Construction on phase one is expected to begin in 2015 and be completed by 2018. Phase two isn't yet funded, so Neilson said it's too early for the university to design a construction timeline.
To prevent the project from looking unfinished in the interim, Lesniak said the design team is "trying to do something that in phase one looks complete, with materials that can be extended vertically for phase two."
Residents in attendance said they were particularly pleased by the enclosed loading dock, citing existing traffic congestion along Huron Street.
TADI traffic engineer Peter Lemmon assured residents that the internal loading dock meant "you won't have trucks backing up on Huron Street."
A traffic study found that staff and student transportation patterns will require an additional 100 parking spaces for the phase one buildout and 220 parking spaces by phase two. Between Northwestern's existing parking garages and nearby lots currently under construction, approximately 8,300 spaces will be available for campus use once construction begins.
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