Hyde Park's Marriott?


At a meeting this past Monday more than 200 community members heard the University’s plan for a combined Marriott Hotel and Fairfield Inn and Suites to replace the vacant Doctor's Hospital. Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston and University Vice President of Community and Government Affairs Hank Webber hosted the meeting, which featured speakers from the University Medical Center, proposed hotel operator White Lodging Services, and architecture firm HOK.

Harvey Golomb, chief medical officer of the U of C Medical Center, explained that the need for a local hotel stemmed largely from the center's prominence. Noting that the medical center has once again been ranked one of the nation's best, Golomb said that families “who come from 50 foreign countries and all 50 states . . . need a place to sleep while their loved ones are getting treatment at the hospital.”

Architect Todd Halamka reviewed plans for the building at 58th Street and Stony Island Avenue, which will have 380 rooms—250 units in the Marriott and 130 units in the Fairfield Inn and Suites. Amenities include a ballroom, conference rooms, gym, pool, coffee shop, and two restaurants. The current design proposes 15 stories, but the figure may change.

Acrimony was largely absent from the question-and-answer session, though many attendees were wary of the University’s plan. Jonathan Fine, president of Preservation Chicago, a nonprofit organization committed to protecting historic buildings, said that although he was not against development and improvement, he was against what he saw as this plan’s “disrespect.” Criticizing panel members for “presenting a precast concrete replacement” for the Doctor’s Hospital, built by the Chicago firm Schmidt, Garden, and Martin, Fine urged the decision makers to consider the firm's historical importance and “the waste of taking a perfectly good building and dumping it into a landfill.” Other attendees questioned White Lodging Services representative Scott Travis on the hotel operator's employment practices. One Chicago hotel worker urged the audience to fight for union labor at the new hotel.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photos: HOK architect Todd Halamka discusses the proposed construction; the panel fields questions from local residents.

July 27, 2007