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Bronzeville, Near South Side

Plans For Former Michael Reese Site Include Housing, A New Metra Station And More

The ambitious two-phase plan is slated to be complete by 2035.

A rendering of site plans for the former Michael Reese Hospital site, as seen from Cottage Grove Avenue.
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DOUGLAS — Guidelines for redeveloping the former Michael Reese Hospital site could be approved this month, with a City Council vote on development plans expected by winter, city officials said.

A team led by Farpoint Development will file for a “planned development” zoning designation this month, officials announced Monday evening at a meeting hosted by Ald. Sophia King (4th).

The zone sets height restrictions, density requirements and placement of open space, according to Kimshasa Baldwin of the Michael Reese advisory council.

Included in the site plans are:

  • Market-rate housing, with 20 percent set aside for affordable housing.
  • A community center of up to 40,000 square feet.
  • A commitment of up to $25 million for education, with 20 internships and 75 apprenticeships per year.
  • A 31st Street Metra station to replace the 27th Street station.
  • The use of the Singer Pavilion — the only remaining Michael Reese Hospital facility — into a “showcase” of the Black history of Bronzeville and the history of the hospital.

In March, the Israel-based Sheba Medical Center signed on to be an anchor tenant at the site’s planned medical research facility.

The two-phase plan, slated for completion in 2035, would bring more than eight million square feet of mixed-use development and about nine acres of open space to the vacant South Lakefront property.

The project’s first phase features one million square feet of mostly non-residential development. It’s planned to break ground in mid-to-late 2021.

Phase one costs are estimated at $500 million, with around $175 million in infrastructure work. Following a traffic study, a new street grid will be developed alongside plans for pedestrian and bike pathways, Farpoint Development founder Scott Goodman said.

Public assistance, like tax increment financing (TIF) funds, has been requested to cover most of that infrastructure work, Goodman said.

The Department of Planning and Development is reviewing the request for TIF funding, according to assistant director of permit review Cindy Roubik.

“There’s going to be a lot of … infrastructure needs,” Roubik said. “The current site is inadequate for the street grid, but no decision has yet been made” about TIF funding.

On Monday and at the prior meeting last October, some residents questioned whether TIF funds should be granted. The city is facing billion-dollar budget gaps for 2021 and 2022.

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A map of the Michael Reese site plans and the surrounding area.

Before construction can begin, the city must remove contaminated soil from the north end of the site, where a radium processing facility operated from 1916 to 1921. The city has allotted $31 million in TIF funding for cleanup, according to Roubik.

A virtual meeting on cleanup plans will be held at 6 p.m. next Wednesday, May 13. The site is expected to be cleaned up by spring 2022.

More than seven million square feet of development — including health care facilities, offices, retail, housing and open space — are planned for the site’s second phase. Groundbreaking on this phase is estimated for 2025.

Another community meeting will be held in the fall, before site plans are sent to the Chicago Plan Commission.

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