By Isi Frank Ativie
The City’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) team, and its Chicago Plan Commission and Community Development Commission, have paved the way for the Bronzeville Lakefront development. Once completed, the development will have approximately 7,000 housing units; eight million square feet of office, retail, and research facility space; and ten acres of parks and open space.
The project will occupy a 48.6-acre site bounded by 31st and 26th Streets, the Metra tracks, and King Drive, which held Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center for 120 years before it closed in 2009. That year, the City purchased the site for $90 million and razed the medical center so the area could serve as the home of the 2016 Summer Olympics, which the City ultimately failed to bring to Chicago.
The $3.8 billion project will create mixed-income housing with a variety of market rate and affordable housing options for families and seniors as well as a health innovation hub, retail and commercial spaces, and public green and community spaces. The development will provide transit and infrastructure refinements including a new Metra train station and create more than 48,000 jobs. Through the health innovation hub, the project will address another goal: improving and facilitating access to healthcare and education for the Bronzeville community.
The Chicago Plan Commission approved the development on Feb. 18, and the Community Development Commission voted to sell the land to developers for $97 million in May.
Local developers from Bronzeville formed the group GRIT to buy and develop the site. GRIT is a collaboration among local organizations Farpoint Development, Loop Capital Management, McLaurin Development Partners, Draper & Kramer, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, and the Bronzeville Community Development Partnership.
Fourth Ward Alderman Sophia King has played a role by creating the Michael Reese Advisory Council.
“The community of Bronzeville and the 4th Ward welcome the opportunity to be home to a world-class health and innovation hub that will not only benefit the neighborhoods in our own back yard but also the city and society as a whole,” said King. “This development will bring jobs and open careers to talented and hardworking residents as well as opportunities for small businesses owners in our community.”
“The community wants to see us take deliberate steps and move forward,” Bronzeville Community Development Partnership managing partner Paula Robinson said. “This is a long time coming. This is a project that the community has been waiting for a long time.”
GRIT plans to begin by revitalizing the property’s southern end as its first phase, costing $600 million; this phase will include the Chicago Arc Innovation Building, which will provide a retail and community center; mixed-income senior housing; new park; and improvement of the Singer Pavilion, the only remaining building from the original Michael Reese complex.
The second phase involves regenerating the site’s northern part with medical research facilities, residential housing, retail areas, offices, and more open spaces in 2023.
Planners designed the development to create 105% renewable energy production annually, according to Farpoint.
Developers plan to install three new landscaped bridges to connect residents to the lakefront. The 27th Street and 31st Street Metra train stations will provide transit access. Workers will extend Cottage Grove Avenue to become the community’s commercial corridor.
GRIT members engaged strongly in obtaining neighborhood and community funding incentives to support the project. Allocated to Chicago from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, New Market Tax Credits and credits for senior housing projects have helped.
“We’re looking for opportunities in growth industries to create jobs at the neighborhood level,” Robinson said. “That’s always first and foremost. This vacant site is an asset.”
The development team and DPD have refined a Master Planned Development zoning application over the last several months with continued input from stakeholders and the public.
“The only worries are keeping the momentum going during COVID-19,” Robinson said. “We have a space where we can absolutely ensure there’s enough space to dream, re-imagine, and step up to the challenge.”
“The redevelopment of this large parcel will bring a vacant, tax-exempt site back into use,” the DPD stated. “The project will serve as a catalyst for continuing development along the South Side and south lakefront.”
Questions on the Bronzeville Lakefront development proposal can be directed to DPD@cityofchicago.org. For King’s office, Log on to https://king4thward.com.