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After Years-Long Battle, Alderman Backs St. Anthony Hospital’s Bid To Buy Washburne Trade Center Site In Little Village

St. Anthony and Cinespace film studios have been in a bidding war for years for the 11-acre site at 31st Street and Kedzie Ave. Officials will share more details at a meeting Wednesday.

Saint Anthony's proposed Focal Point development.
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LITTLE VILLAGE — St. Anthony Hospital has received key support from the Little Village alderman to redevelop large swaths of industrial property on the Southwest Side, including the former Washburne Trade Center, potentially ending a prolonged duel over control of the site.

Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) said in a Facebook post he is endorsing St. Anthony’s proposal for a $600 million development at 31st Street and Kedzie Avenue, and he backs selling the Chicago Public Schools-owned land to the hospital.

St. Anthony officials and Rodriguez’s office will detail the latest plans for the site at a community meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday on Zoom. People who wish to attend can register here.

Since 2019, St. Anthony and Cinespace Chicago, a North Lawndale-based film studio that owns land just west of Washburne, have been locked in a bidding war for the coveted 11-acre site.

CPS spokesman James Gherardi told Block Club last month the “board [had] not made a final decision on the former Washburne site.”

“There’s no timeline available on a decision,” Gherardi wrote in an email.

But Rodriguez said an agreement to sell the 10-acre property to St. Anthony will be introduced at City Council later this month. It could come up for a full vote in April.

Credit: Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago
St. Anthony looks to build the 32-acre Focal Point development starting at the corner of 31st St. and Kedzie Ave.

In lobbying for the site, St. Anthony officials said the location was a key piece of land they need for the 32-acre Focal Point development — a project that would bring a hospital, vocational school, business incubator, day care center, public market, restaurants, retail and sports fields to the neighborhood.

Cinespace wanted to use part of the land for parking. A vocational training center that would allow DePaul University’s film school to expand its Cinespace-based program was also planned, Cinsepace CEO Alex Pissios told residents in 2019.

RELATED: Cinespace And St. Anthony Hospital Compete To Buy Former Washburne Trade Center Site From CPS

During a 2019 community meeting, several St. Anthony employees lined up to offer their support for the hospital’s bid, saying the community needs a new health care center. Some residents asked for the development teams to carefully consider how the proposed projects could spur gentrification in the neighborhood, displacing current residents.

Members of Mi Villita lobbied CPS to keep the site and transform it into a state-of-the-art vocational training center or a regional library. Other residents expressed concerns about bringing a hospital to a highly contaminated part of the neighborhood with constant diesel trucks running through the industrial corridor.

Credit: Mauricio Peña/Block Club
Residents pack in to hear about proposals for the former Washburne trade center at 31st Street and Kedzie Avenue.

Earlier this year, St. Anthony and the Chicago Southwest Development Corporations came under scrutiny in their attempts to demolish a warehouse at 3200 S. Kedzie Ave.

The corporation attempted to evict immigrant artists, who have been living at the site. A lease dispute is at the center of the case, which is being litigated in housing court.

RELATED: In Little Village, An Immigrant-Led Artists’ Commune Resists as Developer Seeks Eviction

In announcing this week’s meeting, Rodriguez said “a significant majority of those present at the community meeting supported” St. Anthony’s bid. Hospital representatives presented 1,500 signatures in support of the proposal and more than 20 letters of support from community leaders, Rodriguez wrote. 

“With this level of support, the potential to bring additional community health resources, the required remediation clean up and the opportunity to develop a site in our community that has been empty and dilapidated for decades, I, too, submitted a letter of support for the project,” Rodriguez said.

If City Council approves the sale of the site, the project will need to be approved by the Department of Planning and Development and the Zoning Committee.

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