Former VA Hospital Site to Finally Get Spruced Up

Former Veterans Hospital lot drawing

When Northwestern Hospital sought permission to tear down the former Lakeside Veterans Administration Hospital (333 East Huron Street), neighbors worried that the land would become an eyesore. Similar concerns have been raised about the potential demolition of the former Prentice Womens’ Hospital nearby (320 East Huron Street).

Those fears turned out to be well-founded, because in spite of all its good neighbor talk, Northwestern allowed one of the most visible lots in the Streeterville neighborhood to be neglected.  Until it wanted something.

That something was permission to build its new Outpatient Care Facility at 259 East Erie.  Fortunately, Alderman Brendan Reilly was paying attention and held Northwestern’s feet to the fire — requiring the massive facility to spruce up the VA site, as it had promised but failed to do years earlier.

The alderman’s office has been circulating two documents, one a diagram and the other a rendering, showing Northwestern’s plans to finally make good.

It’s not often that we write about vacant lots, but this one is in such a prominent location and has been an eyesore for so long that people do occasionally ask about it.  So it’s nice to finally have an answer for them.

The alderman’s official statement on the matter follows:

Alderman Reilly recently met with representatives of Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH) to discuss the commitment they made during the Chicago Plan Commission Hearing – promising some temporary improvements to the now vacant VA lot in Streeterville.

The Alderman’s support for NMH’s Outpatient Care Pavilion at 259 East Erie was, in part, contingent upon the institution making significant temporary improvements to the vacant VA lot. The condition of that site has been unacceptable for some time. NMH’s last Plan Commission proceeding provided the Alderman with an opportunity to force a better condition at this highly-visible, important corner in Streeterville. Alderman Reilly is grateful to SOAR for their support while he negotiated these details with NMH.

Alderman Reilly is very pleased to report that his persistence has paid-off. The Alderman believes we have secured a solution that not only requires NMH to deliver on their promise to provide green space on the site, but will also provide some additional streetscape improvements.

NMH will provide a 15-foot setback on the east and west sides of the site – including new wrought iron fencing to secure the entire perimeter as well as new and improved lighting. The interior planting area will include prairie grasses and wild flowers encircled by a sodded perimeter just beyond the fencing. Per the Alderman’s request, NMH will also widen and repair the sidewalks on both Fairbanks and McClurg Courts. Click on the following links to view the site plan and rendering.

Alderman Reilly is thankful for SOAR’s partnership in securing an outcome that includes a true public benefit for the neighborhood. He is excited this lot will be dramatically improved – not only aesthetically – but also in terms of security with improved lighting, secured fencing and chamfered corners to eliminate pedestrian blind spots around corners of the lot.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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