Housing, retail, community spaces among proposals for former Michael Reese site

Construction could begin, at the earliest, in about 18 months, as more community discussions are planned. Developers are proposing 20% of the housing onsite to be affordable and for discounted rent in retail spaces for local and small businesses.

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The latest iteration of development plans for the former Michael Reese Hospital site.

Ald. Sophia King’s office

Bronzeville residents and community stakeholders were given an update Tuesday evening on the proposed redevelopment of the former Michael Reese Hospital site. 

And while community leaders and developers stressed that the plans were not set in stone, the proposal has the potential to drastically alter the southern lakefront.

Ald. Sophia King (4th) and members of the project’s development team discussed the plans during a community meeting Tuesday at Northeastern Illinois University’s Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies.

They said the first phase of the development would include: a data center, senior and multifamily housing, a high-density residential tower, a community center, community green space and a new 31st Street Metra station.

The plans — which could be a boon to growing jobs in the area — also call for 20% of the housing onsite to be affordable and for discounted rent in retail spaces for local and small businesses, according to the developers.

“We want this to be a vibrant community,” King said, “And to make sure that it shows a strong homage to both the Bronzeville community throughout the development as well as to the former Michael Reese site.”

The hospital was shuttered in 2009, and the land was bought by the city for an Olympic Village that was never built when Chicago failed to land the 2016 Summer Olympics. The site was also among those floated as a potential home for Amazon’s coveted “HQ2.”

Last summer, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the hospital site was one of five potential spots for a Chicago casino — a suggestion that was condemned by King as the equivalent to “putting a casino in Harlem.”

King doubled down Tuesday, telling the roughly 100 attendees that “we didn’t have any intention of having a casino there for various reasons.”

Though the hospital is long since demolished, the proposed data center would be able to use existing technologic infrastructure that remains underground. Developers have also been in discussions with nearby Dunbar High School about ways students there can use the resources available once they come to fruition.

“The Michael Reese site probably has the most dense amount of fiber that intersects than any other place in the city of Chicago,” said Thomas McElroy, founding principal of the tech infrastructure firm Level (1) Global Solutions.

Ken Bahk, of Kaleidescope Health Ventures, a health care tech startup, said the data center could be a “game-changing” factor in the city’s now-constant efforts to attract more tech businesses.

Members of the development team said that, at the earliest, construction would begin in about 18 months. There will be more community meetings to discuss the plans — which are subject to change — going forward, King said.

“This isn’t baked in stone yet,” King said. “This is going to be a very fluid process. It’s going to take some time.”

Regina Stilp, of Farpoint Development, said the project offers immense potential to both the Bronzeville area and the city as a whole.

“We have an opportunity to change the skyline,” she said.

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