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Children's Memorial Project Includes Losing Renaissance Revival Buildings

By Mina Bloom | August 9, 2016 6:12am
 The Nellie A. Black building was built in 1932.
The Nellie A. Black building was built in 1932.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

LINCOLN PARK — Later this month, crews will start doing cleanup inside the Nellie A. Black building before they eventually tear it down as part of the Children's Memorial Hospital redevelopment project.

Though the developer plans to save parts of the facade and incorporate it into the design, most of the building, 700-710. W. Fullerton Ave., will be lost — much to the dismay of preservationist Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago. 

It's not the only historic building on the hospital campus that's coming down.

Scaffolding is up around the Martha Wilson Memorial Pavilion building, 701 W. Fullerton Ave., which will face the wrecking ball in the coming months.

One of the Martha Wilson building's most distinctive features: its columned entryway. [Courtesy/Landmark Illinois]

Crews working on the Martha Wilson building this week. [DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

A close-up look at the demolished entryway. [DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

One of the developers behind the massive redevelopment project, Dan McCaffery of McCaffery Interests, told DNAinfo Chicago that his team has no immediate plans to incorporate original elements of the Martha Wilson Memorial Pavilion building into the project, but will save pieces of the facade in the hopes of incorporating it sometime in the future.

Miller, who fought to save the buildings, said the interests of the developers and neighbors ultimately outweighed a "good preservation outcome" for the buildings, which he described as "outstanding."

"These two buildings really sing," he said. "They're the gateway from Children's Hospital to the east. They're very much in the character with the neighborhood as far as materials and quality of design. That's something you don't see on a regular basis." 

"We felt that on every level these would have been easy buildings to integrate into the development."

The Nellie A. Black building this week. [DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

During a community meeting, McCaffery said his team spent time studying the Nellie Black building and ultimately determined the building has to come down due to its raised entrance. Miller said he offered solutions like creating an entrance on Orchard Street, but nothing came of it.

McCaffery said the Martha Wilson building has to come down because its height, columns and windows aren't "conducive to housing today." Plus there needs to be room for underground parking, he said.

"The neighbors on Orchard and elsewhere put on quite a lot of pressure for the building to 'park itself,'" he said.

Built in 1932 by Pickney and Johnson, the Nellie A. Black building used to house nurses and interns. It's recognizable for its red brick exterior and Renaissance revival architectural style.

The Martha Wilson Memorial Pavilion was designed in a similar style by Holabird and Roche. Built in 1926, the red brick building used to house offices and patient rooms. The interior has been renovated several times, but the original exterior remains. Distinctive elements include its string courses, which is a term for a band of bricks, and its round stone arches with inset ornamental patterns above the entrances and windows.

Miller said the buildings are two of the oldest structures on campus that were built by Children's Memorial Hospital.

Under the redevelopment project, the Nellie Black building will be transformed into a senior housing complex under the name Belmont Village. 

McCaffery, along with its development partner Houston-based Hines, expect to finish the complex at the end of 2018. It will be a seven-story building with 150 assisted-living units spanning about 120,000 square feet, according to a Belmont Village official.

If all goes according to plan, the entire redevelopment project will be complete in about 3½ years, McCaffery said. 

The plans include two apartment buildings with 540 units, about 160,000 square feet of retail and up to 60 condominiums.

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