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Bronzeville, Near South Side

City Commission Approves $97 Million Sale Of Former Michael Reese Campus, Clearing Hurdle For ‘Bronzeville Lakefront’

The massive project to bring thousands of homes, plus retail, park and research space, still needs City Council approval. Some construction could start as early as this fall.

A rendering shows what the 31st Street park at the Michael Reese Hospital redevelopment would look like.
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BRONZEVILLE — A $3.8 billion project overhauling the former Michael Reese campus secured key approval Tuesday after the city’s Community Development Commission voted to sell the 48-acre site to GRIT Chicago.

If approved by the City Council, the land sale will allow the developers to transform the closed hospital campus in Bronzeville to include 7,000 units of homes, along with 8 million square feet of office, retail, research facility space and 10 acres of parkland and open space.

As part of the sale, the city is committing up to $60 million in future spending on public infrastructure projects to support the development, via federal funding or a new capital bond approved last year. City officials say tax increment financing, or TIFs, will not be used to pay for these improvements.

The city’s Plan Commission approved a separate planned development for the project in February, which changes the underlying zoning on the site and and will guide the design and layout of the project. The first phase of the work is slated to include an innovation center, welcoming center and senior housing over a five-year period.

Both the zoning changes and the land sale need separate City Council approval. The Zoning Committee and Housing and Real Estate Committee are expected to take up the respective proposals this summer, city officials said.

GRIT, a development team led by Chicago-based Farpoint Development, was selected to oversee the redevelopment of the property in 2017.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The plot of land where the multibillion-dollar development would overhaul the former site of Michael Reese Hospital, as seen in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood on Feb. 18, 2021.

While the project was praised by Bronzeville residents and Ald. Sophia King (4th), Adela Cepeda of the city’s Community Development Commission was the lone vote against the sale, citing concerns about the lack of Latinx ownership across the development team.

“It’s not fair. We are too big a part of Chicago to be invisible. This is going to be one of the most visible projects in Chicago,” Cepeda said.

Farpoint CEO Scott Goodman said he’s committed to diversity and inclusion, saying Latinx-owned firms would be included during the redevelopment’s planning and construction stages.

In “two or three years from now,” commissioners would be satisfied with the progress of the development team’s hiring of minority- and women-owned businesses to support the project, he said.

Ciere Boatright, vice president of Real Estate & Inclusion for Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, said after the meeting the development is serious about creating opportunities for diverse contracting teams.

“Even realizing that the Bronzeville community is 87 percent Black, we will continue to actively reach out not only to Black business owners, but also Latinos, Asians, people with disabilities, veterans and more,” Boatright said in a statement. “Once the land deal is final, we will activate the pipeline we have built to quickly accomplish our diversity goals — which, of course, includes Latinos as well as all groups.”

Credit: Provided
A rendering of the 48-acre Michael Reese parcel set for sale to a private development team for the $4 billion “Bronzeville Lakefront” project.

GRIT would be responsible for a $20 million initial payment under the terms of the land sale, giving developers the right to buy up the land parcel by parcel over 14 years, according to a document prepared by the Department of Planning and Development.

Each parcel price will depend on the underlying zoning of the property, and whether environmental remediation at the site has been completed. The city previously committed $31 million in TIF funds to clean up a former radium processing facility on the site.

Before construction on the buildings can start, developers plan on expanding and possibly relocating an existing Metra Station at 27th Street to 31st Street. Those projects would be built over a two-year period at the outset of the redevelopment, starting as early as this fall, according to GRIT team member David Doig, president of Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives.

The sale agreement also binds the developers to provide certain community benefits, including pricing at least 20 percent of all on-site units as affordable and funding $25 million “ toward new or improved Chicago Public Schools facilities,” nearby.

GRIT estimates the project will bring 30,000 full-time jobs to the Bronzeville lakefront and over 17,000 construction jobs.

If the project receives full approval by the City Council, it would culminate a tumultuous period of ownership of the former hospital for the city.

Michael Reese Hospital closed in 2009. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley purchased the land that year for $91 million, hoping it would become a temporary home to Olympic athletes during the 2016 Olympics.

The city’s bid for the games failed, however, and taxpayers have been paying $13 million annually to service the debt for the sale, according to the city. The property also was floated as a potential location as global cities scrambled to lure Amazon’s second headquarters.

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