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'Mega-development' for the Chicago's South Side gets official nod

Maggie Prosser, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

The Chicago City Council has approved the sale of the former Michael Reese Hospital site and zoning for a $4 billion mixed-use redevelopment, inching the proposed Bronzeville lakefront project closer to breaking ground.

The $97 million sale of the medical campus will allow a coalition of development companies to move forward on nearly 8 million square feet of commercial, institutional and residential spaces, according to the city’s Department of Planning and Development.

The city selected GRIT Chicago, a team comprised of six development groups, to purchase and develop the property, which the city bought for roughly the same price in 2008.

“This is a mega-development that will truly impact the entire city,” Ald. Sophia King, 4th, said. “While it will bring billions in economic development to the city and the community, it will also bring other tangible investments.”

At the City Council meeting Wednesday, aldermen earmarked $60 million for improvements to neighboring roads and a new, two-acre public park that will stretch from 26th to 31st streets and from Cottage Grove to Lake Park avenues. GRIT will be responsible for any costs that exceed the approved $60 million budget.

Construction could begin as early as this fall on the Bronzeville Lakefront infrastructure, including extending roads around the former hospital site, said Scott Goodman, founding principal of Farpoint Development. His firm is part of GRIT.

GRIT’s development plan is twofold. First, ground will break on the southern end of the property at 31st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. The 500,000-square-foot structure will house the Arc Innovation Center led by Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, which will lease about one-quarter of the building. The project also will open a Bronzeville welcome center and digital museum to memorialize and pay homage to the community’s history, King said Wednesday.

In the second phase, the northern potion of the site will be developed with residential units and commercial spaces. As part of its agreement with the city, 20% of GRIT’s anticipated 4,800 residential units will be offered at reduced rents for low-income people. GRIT will also be required to pay $25 million toward expansion of area public schools.

The development is expected to create 48,000 jobs, and GRIT expects to meet a goal of 30% minority suppliers to build Bronzeville Lakefront.

“We think this can be a model for developments nationwide or even globally,” Goodman said. “It’s going to be sustainable, it will be a healthy community and it’s focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.”

 

The sale of the property will occur in phases over the next 14 years, starting with an anticipated $8.8 million payment by GRIT to the city. GRIT’s initial payment also will include $20 million for the option to buy the entire site in parcels as the development progresses.

The entire project could take 20 years to build, costing $7 billion and extending well past the former hospital campus’s 49-acre lot, ultimately covering more than 100 acres total, Goodman said. Singer Pavilion — the campus’s only remaining Reese building, built in 1948 — will be preserved as part of the development, according to the Department of Planning and Development.

The development’s infusion of industry, retail and housing is expected to generate $3.5 billion in direct economic impact, and create 31,000 full-time and 45,000 construction jobs.

Wednesday’s City Council approval included adding adjacent land from the Prairie Shores residential community into the planned development to allow for the extension of Cottage Grove and Vernon avenues.

The development team eventually wants to relocate the nearby 28-acre McCormick Place marshaling yards and buy that property from the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, Goodman said. The developers also could build over train tracks using air rights to further expand the site.

Built in 1881 and named for the wealthy San Francisco entrepreneur who funded the hospital before his death in 1878, the Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center closed in 2008, and the city leveled the campus in 2009.

The property was at the center of former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Daley purchased the bulldozed property for $2 million per acre in 2009 in hopes of building an Olympic Village for the 2016 games.

In 2015, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel opened it up to bids and refinanced the property’s debt in 2017. That same year, the city entered the lot into consideration for Amazon’s HQ2, which is now slated for Arlington, Virginia.

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