On the same day Americans made Hyde Park the home of the new Midwestern White House, Hyde Parkers took a dramatic step toward closing off their community to the business interests of the outside world. Last Tuesday, voters in the 39th precinct voted to ban alcohol sales in their narrow stretch of east Hyde Park, effectively slamming a wrecking ball into plans for a hotel on the site of the abandoned Doctors Hospital.
It wasn’t a landslide—the referendum passed by only 20 votes—but it was enough to make a mess of the University’s best laid plans. By invoking the “nuclear option” to scuttle the proposal, a narrow margin of residents—pushed by an unaffiliated union and historical preservationists—have ensured that no new jobs will be created and no new businesses established. Meanwhile, developers will now think twice before spending time and money in a neighborhood so resistant to development that it reinstated prohibition to save a boarded-up building.
With the hotel on ice, the University must decide what to do with the crumbling building. The solution is simple: Tear it down.
As it stands (precariously), the Hospital is both a liability concern and a drain on resources. Vacant buildings must be kept in good repair—an expensive thing to do, given their propensity to attract vagrants, drug dealers, and other ne’er-do-wells. Just two weeks ago, a pair of teenagers was arrested on the roof of the building with a backpack full of old medical supplies stolen from inside. Regardless of the status of the hotel plan, the University should have removed medical equipment and medicine from the building when it first bought the property, but the incident underscores an important point: Nothing good can come of Doctors Hospital.
By demolishing the building, the University would rid itself of an architectural eyesore, a public safety hazard, and an obstacle to further development. A liquor store would obviously be off limits, but perhaps the University could build a parking lot in the hospital’s place. Surely the hotel opponents who argued that a Marriott would exacerbate the area’s parking crunch would rejoice at such a move. More importantly, by tearing down the hospital, the University would take down one of the community’s more spirited demands: that the brick façade of the building be incorporated into any hotel plan.
Residents won’t have a chance to repeal the alcohol ban until four years from now. But the University can’t afford to let Doctors Hospital stand vacant that long.
President Zimmer, tear down those walls.
The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and two additional Editorial Board members.