This week, the Laboratory School announced an exploratory proposal to develop an Early Childhood Center at the University-owned Doctors Hospital site. Although the plan would demolish a structure with some historical and architectural significance, the University has found a use for the vacant property, which promises to benefit both the University and the larger community.
The University’s last attempt to develop the property into a Marriot hotel was blocked 14 months ago when local residents voted their district dry. Those who opposed the plan cited concerns over congestion, the developer’s union policies, and the building’s historic interest. Their drastic move to halt development left the decrepit hulk standing, a trophy of sorts for Hyde Park’s most intransigent preservationists.
It seems unlikely that the new proposal could, or should, cause as much controversy. The new Early Childhood Center would allow the Lab School to move forward with expanding its enrollment, which would allow more non-University-affiliated parents in the community to send their children there. The plan would also cut down congestion on 59th Street without the potential parking problems of a hotel. Whatever the historical significance of the current building, the new center would be incalculably more valuable for a community that prizes education so highly.
Furthermore, the University seems to have learned its lesson from the hotel fiasco about opening up dialogue with the community early and often. While the University didn’t hold a public meeting about the hotel plans for almost a year after they were announced, this time officials have already begun talks with community members, with a meeting in early December and another planned for the coming weeks.
Though still in its earliest stages, the new proposal seems to offer a use of the Doctors Hospital space that both Hyde Park residents and administrators can be happy about. University students, meanwhile, have reason to hope that an embarrassing eyesore may at last keep its appointment with a wrecking ball.
— The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.