Cubs, Penny Pritzker take a swing at North Lawndale development

Seven other development teams also answer the city’s call for interest in a 21-acre site at Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue.

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A view of the property at Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue. An abandoned rail line bisects it.

A view of the property at Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue. An abandoned rail line bisects it.

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The Chicago Cubs, owned by the Ricketts family, have teamed with another powerful name, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, to submit a plan to develop city-owned property in North Lawndale that’s been vacant for decades. But the billionaires’ alliance faces competition from seven other investment groups.

All replied to a call from the city’s planning agency for interest in developing the nearly 21 acres at Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue. City officials have failed in several tries to start something there, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot has suggested it for a casino.

The eight responses show developers are eyeing the tract for industrial uses, such as “last-mile” distribution and cold-storage warehouses, both deemed by real estate experts to be in short supply. The Cubs-Pritzker plan calls for a youth baseball campus that would share the site with an industrial building.

The team proposed an 86,000-square-foot multipurpose building with outdoor fields and community space on the site’s southern portion. The northern section would get a 194,000-square-foot warehouse or cold storage facility, according to a city-issued summary of responses.

Penny Pritzker

Penny Pritzker

Scott Olson, Getty

The athletic center would be called the Cubs Urban Youth Academy and be a venture of the club’s charitable arm. The Sun-Times first reported the Cubs’ interest in the site in December.

Cubs spokesman Julian Green declined to comment. Pritzker is represented in the proposal by her Pritzker Realty Group.

Jim Hock, spokesman for Pritzker Realty, said, “We are excited about the potential of this important side-by-side development with Cubs Charities that will create a unique, sustainable community asset by providing both economic development and social impact.” He called the project “an immediate job creator” that would employ local subcontractors.

Penny Pritzker has been active throughout the family holdings, including the Hyatt hotel chain and other real estate investments. She served as commerce secretary in President Barack Obama’s administration and is the sister of Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Among competing submissions, the most aggressive idea came from the team of McCaffery, KMA Cos. and the nonprofit group A Safe Haven, which helps the homeless. It calls for total construction of 729,000 square feet, including 60 units of “workforce housing,” distribution and cold storage buildings and a community center it calls the North Lawndale Wealth Engine.

Prominent developer Related Midwest joined with 548 Development to suggest 327,000 square feet of industrial and community uses, including a Lawndale Innovation Center. Related Midwest is behind the Near South Side megadevelopment called The 78.

Nonprofit developer Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives proposed industrial buildings totaling 331,000 square feet, some of it at reduced rents to attract small businesses. Partners in the proposal include East Lake Management and MK Asset Management.

Other responses came from Matanky Realty with Safeway Construction; McLaurin Development Partners with seven other firms; IBT Group; and Nationwide Furniture with Jarad Investments.

The ideas are under review, said a spokesman of the city’s Department of Planning and Development. The submissions don’t include a price for the nearly 21 acres; the city is following a “request for proposals” process that lets it consider factors besides price, such as economic promise and community benefits. The plan is to shortlist the best responses, take residents’ feedback, then pick a winner in the spring.

Green, the Cubs spokesman, said in December that the team’s goal for the baseball academy is “increasing access to diamond sports — baseball and softball — in underserved communities” while helping youths with social and academic progress. North Lawndale is predominantly Black neighborhood, and Green said the team wants to bring baseball to more African Americans.

The property was associated with the Silver Shovel scandal in the 1990s in which aldermen were convicted of taking bribes to overlook illegal dumping. It had mountains of construction debris that have been removed, although a city report says the property still has environmental issues requiring a cleanup.

Documents show the city is offering it “as is,” with no taxpayer obligation for further environmental work.


Part of the vacant property at Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue, as seen in December.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

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