Long-planned redevelopment of former Michael Reese Hospital site kicks off

With an official groundbreaking Wednesday, infrastructure work will begin for the $4.3 billion Bronzeville Lakefront mixed-use project, called the largest ever in Chicago.

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Bronzeville_Lakefront_rendering_streetscape.jpg

A rendering of a streetscape in the future Bronzeville Lakefront development.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Bronzeville Lakefront, a $4.3 billion redevelopment of the old Michael Reese Hospital property south of McCormick Place, has been planned for years and will take many more to execute. But it will observe a milestone Wednesday with the formal launch of construction.

“We’re ecstatic to be in the ground right now,” said Regina Stilp, principal at Farpoint Development, one of several firms with a piece of what’s conceived as 7.8 million square feet spanning residential, office and retail uses.

Chicagoans eager to see buildings sprout at the former city-owned property will have longer to wait, however. The developers have not set a timeline for above-ground construction.

What’s happening now, Stilp said, is infrastructure work and the extension of Vernon Avenue through the roughly 48-acre site. She said crews also will build a surface parking lot to be used temporarily during later construction.

The extension of roads and utilities is backed by a city pledge of up to $60 million from bond issues. City officials made that commitment in 2021 when it agreed to sell the property for $96.9 million, arguing that eventual development would pay off for taxpayers long term.

The Wednesday groundbreaking is expected to feature outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is highlighting development deals that advanced during her four years in office.

The developers call it the largest mixed-use project undertaken in Chicago. Despite the pending election of a new mayor and an alderperson who will influence the process, Stilp said the project has broad community support and should not suffer delays because of politics.

She had no comment on a lawsuit in federal court against her firm and top city officials, accusing them of scaring off potential buyers of land near the Reese property so the developers could eventually get it cheaply. The suit was filed by owners of 6.5 acres at the northeast corner of 26th Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Spokespersons for the mayor likewise declined to comment.

Stilp said the infrastructure work amounts to “the first part of the first phase” of the project. When work on structures gets going in earnest, it’s expected to include a building for offices and research labs called the Bronzeville Innovation Center. The work will be near 31st Street and Lake Park Avenue on the southern end of the site.

The building’s anchor tenant will be Israel’s highly rated Sheba Medical Center, which plans a research center called Chicago ARC — for “accelerate, redesign, collaborate.” Stilp said developers are working to sign up other users.

Phase I plans calls for apartments and townhomes, including about 200 units of senior housing, a park and the reuse of the Singer Pavilion, the only part of the Reese complex left.

Partners in Bronzeville Lakefront include McLaurin Development Partners, Loop Capital Management, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and Bronzeville Community Development Partnership.

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