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Bronzeville, Near South Side

Michael Reese Megadevelopment Moves Forward, Set For Pivotal City Council Vote Wednesday

The first part of the $3.8 billion project to transform the Bronzeville hospital site includes an innovation center, welcoming center, senior housing, a repurposed pavilion and a park.

A rendering of plans for the former Michael Reese Hospital site, 2929 S. Ellis Ave.
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BRONZEVILLE — The multi-billion-dollar Bronzeville Lakefront project is ready for a major City Council vote Wednesday that could clear the way for developers to start overhauling the former Michael Reese Hospital site.

On Tuesday, the council’s Zoning Committee approved zoning changes to the 48-acre campus while the council’s Housing Committee signed off on the $97 million sale of the land to GRIT Chicago, a group of developers led by Farpoint Development.

On Monday, the Finance Committee endorsed a proposal to commit $60 million in city funding to support public infrastructure for the development.

The city’s Community Development Commission approved the sale of the campus in May, prompting separate reviews for the necessary zoning changes and the land transfer itself.

Pending Wednesday’s City Council approvals, the shuttered hospital campus will be home to 8 million square feet of office, retail and research space, along with 7,000 residential units, with 20 percent set aside for affordable housing — transforming the long-vacant land into a cultural destination.

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The Bronzeville Welcoming Center planned for the former Michael Reese Hospital site.

Ald. Sophia King (4th), who spoke at all three virtual meetings held on the matter this week, applauded GRIT for their willingness to work with the community to ensure Bronzeville Lakefront will be open and accessible to all amid fears of gentrification.

Lou Weeks, executive vice president of Unite Local 1 — a union of hospitality workers who previously expressed concerns about there not being enough job opportunities at the site — also voiced support for the project Tuesday.

“We’re confident that there is now a path in place to enable the hospitality jobs created at the Michael Reese site to be good jobs to uplift the community,” Weeks said.

The $60 million going toward the development will come from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $3.7 billion infrastructure plan. It will support the construction of streets, green space and other improvements.

City officials say tax increment financing won’t be used for this work, but $31 million in TIF funding is being used to remove hazardous waste on the north end of the brownfield site.

Construction on the first phase could begin as early as fall with the creation of the Chicago ARC Innovation Center (a biomedical research facility), a welcoming center, senior housing and a public park that will be deeded over to the Chicago Park District upon completion.

The Singer Pavilion — the last existing building on the the site — would be also be repurposed. Though not an official landmark, the abandoned psychiatric hospital has historical significance as it was one of the first postwar structures to be built.

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 and taxpayers have been paying $13 million a year to pay down 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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