McCormick Place could be used for homeless, agency says

Spokeswoman says city and state are considering options for using its 2.6 million square feet to help with the coronavirus.

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McCormick Place exterior

A portion of the McCormick Place convention center.

Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau

City and state officials are considering whether to shelter homeless people in McCormick Place to help control the coronavirus pandemic, a spokeswoman for the convention complex said Tuesday.

“We’ve been having lots of conversations with the governor’s office and the city in terms of how our campus might be used during this crisis. Nothing has been confirmed,” said Cynthia McCafferty, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which runs McCormick Place.

The city’s home for major conventions has been idled by the coronavirus and Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order that most people in Illinois stay at home. With 2.6 million square feet in four buildings, plus a 10,000-seat arena for college basketball, McCormick Place could be suited to host people not infected by the coronavirus but in danger of contracting and spreading it.

Its space also could be used for people sickened in the pandemic and needing care, but that would require expensive preparations and equipment that may be scarce. New York is using its Javits Center convention facility in Manhattan as a field hospital.

McCafferty would not say if McCormick Place would be used if the area’s hospitals become overrun. “Obviously, we’re a large space. It depends on what the need is across the board,” she said.

During his regular daily coronavirus briefing Tuesday, the governor said that his administration was considering how assembly halls might be used.

Jordan Troy, press aide for Mayor Lori Lightfoot, said there are no plans to use McCormick Place “at this time.” Leaders of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless said they were unaware of any discussions regarding McCormick Place.

Monday, Lightfoot announced plans for the city to rent more than 2,000 hotel rooms by the end of this week for people sickened by the virus who need to be quarantined. The plan includes taking over the entire 216-room Hotel One Sixty-Six at 166 E. Superior St.

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