January 15, 2010

Doctors Hospital could make way for new Lab School building

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The University is exploring a plan to build an Early Childhood Center (ECC) for the Lab School on the site of the Doctors Hospital, the center of 2008’s controversial dry-vote campaign.

If approved, the ECC would be designed exclusively for students through the second grade, University spokesman Steve Kloehn said. Part of a major Lab School expansion underway since July 2007, the ECC would provide more space for the young students in a more open design teachers think is conducive to learning at early ages.

In 2008, residents of the 39th precinct blocked another plan that would have replaced the architecturally and historically significant Doctors Hospital with a hotel. Residents voted to ban the sale of alcohol in the district, preventing potential interest from hoteliers and expressing their displeasure with a perceived lack of communication from the University.

Kloehn emphasized that the plan for an ECC is neither fully developed nor settled within the University. Furthermore, the Hyde Park community has been and will continue to be involved in planning and approving whatever replaces the ECC, he said.

“In the coming weeks, there will be some public meetings convened by the alderman and the University to lay out the possibilities on the Stony Island site,” Kloehn said. A smaller “group of people who can hear the ideas, react, and raise issues they think are important to the conversation” has already met with University officials, he said, but did not have specific information about the group.

Kloehn also said any final plan will have to apply for a permit to change the intended use of the site (a process involving local elected officials, public meetings and the city) and would also have to pass inspection for demolition.

Lab School Director David W. Magill announced the plan to a parents’ council on Monday, Kloehn said, although N-2 faculty were told in December and planning has been underway for a year.

The Lab School hopes to increase its class size to a little more than 2,000 from 1,780. It has raised $30 million dollars for the initiative in two-and-a-half years.