Chicago gave the go-ahead to a massive, $3.8 billion redevelopment on the lakefront site of the former Michael Reese Hospital, promising economic revival for the predominantly Black neighborhood.
The City Council overwhelmingly approved Bronzeville Lakefront, a years-in-the-making 7.8 million-square-foot mixed-use project led by Farpoint Development.
The city will sell the 48.6-acre site to the Farpoint team for $96.9 million. Aldermen also approved spending $60 million from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s capital plan for street repair and construction and a two-acre park; and agreed to rezone the property.
Over the next two decades, GRIT plans to transform the site, building 4,800 residential units and 15 million square feet of office and retail space. The team includes Draper & Kramer, McLaurin Development Partners, Loop Capital, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and the Bronzeville Community Development Partnership.
The $600 million first phase will develop the site as a life sciences campus focused on health and biomedical technology. The plan includes a 500,000-square-foot laboratory and office facility housing the first U.S. arm of the Israel-based Sheba Medical Center, often referred to as the Mayo Clinic of the Mideast.
Sheba said it will occupy 25 percent of the ARC Innovation Center – for Accelerate, Redesign and Collaboration – that will be managed by Chicago-based Kaleidoscope Health Ventures as a home for innovative researchers and startups. The city has targeted life sciences as an economic engine for future growth.
Infrastructure construction is expected to begin this fall on the first phase, which also will include senior housing and the Bronzeville Community Center. It could be completed by 2023.
The development is one of three multibillion-dollar projects approved since 2019 but is the only one in a minority community. Supporters of the project say it will create jobs and provide housing for low-income residents in neighborhoods including Englewood, Auburn-Gresham and Chatham that have been marred by unprecedented gun violence in recent years.
“As the only multibillion-dollar development being planned for a community of color in Chicago, Bronzeville Lakefront will provide a strategic link between the growing central area and the systemically underinvested neighborhoods to its south,” said Maurice Cox, the city’s planning and development commissioner.
The sale also unshackles the city from a money-losing proposition that began when former Mayor Richard M. Daley talked aldermen into purchasing the vacated hospital site in 2009.
Convinced that Chicago was going to win its bid for the 2016 Olympics, Daley persuaded the council to take on an $85 million loan to build the Olympic Village. But Chicago failed to win the bid – Rio de Janeiro got it — and the property has sat vacant since, racking up interest payments that taxpayers have been paying.
The project’s $3 billion second phase is expected to include more medical research facilities, office, retail and residential units. GRIT has agreed to set aside 20 percent, or roughly 1,000 residential units, at reduced rates for low-income tenants.
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