Chicago taxpayers have paid a wealthy North Shore family more than $24 million since June for the vacant Michael Reese Hospital property that former Mayor Richard M. Daley bought as part of his failed Olympic dream.
And Chicagoans will keep paying — possibly another $120 million in principal and interest by the year 2024 — unless Mayor Rahm Emanuel can find someone to develop the 37-acre lakefront site just south of McCormick Place. With its prime location, the property has been eyed as the possible home to everything from a new casino to President Barack Obama’s presidential library.
“The property is worth substantially less than was paid,” says Emanuel spokeswoman Elizabeth Langsdorf. “This inherited deal was a bad one for taxpayers, but Mayor Emanuel is taking steps to ensure taxpayer exposure is reduced and to bring the property back to productive use.”
For now, City Hall must continue paying the property’s former owners, the Mills family, owners of Medline Industries Inc.,a medical supply business. A federal bankruptcy judge awarded the Michael Reese property to settle the hospital’s debts to the family.
The Mills family includes Wendy Mills Abrams and her husband James Abrams, who are close friends of Emanuel. Abrams and his wife each contributed $50,000 last month to Chicago Forward, a political campaign fund the mayor’s allies used to financially support aldermen loyal to Emanuel.
As mayor, Daley agreed to pay the family $91 million for the property. But the city also could end up paying more than $55 million in interest.