By Crusader Staff Report
The site of the former Michael Reese Hospital in Bronzeville may be turned into a massive, mixed-use, 3.5 billion development that could dramatically change the area’s landscape near the lakefront.
During a virtual community meeting last week on Zoom with residents and Alderman Sophia King (4th Ward), Farpoint Development presented a plan that they say will create jobs while honoring Bronzeville’s rich heritage.
Farpoint developers say they plan to submit their zoning proposal to the City Council this month, but questions remain whether developers will receive tax increment funding (TIF) for the project.
Called Bronzeville Lakefront, the sprawling, proposed complex will be anchored by a 500,000 square-foot Israel Sheba Medical Center. The complex will occupy a large empty parcel of city land bounded by 31st and Cottage Grove to the south, 26th and King Drive to the north, and Vernon Avenue and Lake Shore Drive to the east.
Developers also plan to build on the air rights of the McCormick Place truck marshaling yard that’s parallel to the site, between Lake Shore Drive and the Metra Electric railroad tracks. The buildings’ height will be limited to 400 feet.
As part of the project, developers plan to build several parks on nine acres. The proposal also calls for a new Metra train station on 31st Street near Lake Shore Drive. Bronzeville Lakefront would also include new offices, residences, retail and health care facilities. The last surviving structure from the old Reese hospital, the Singer Pavillion, would be repurposed and incorporated into the development.
Developers have reportedly agreed that 65 percent of all businesses on the site must be minority-owned to help create opportunities for jobs and investment in Bronzeville. Questions remain whether minority-owned businesses will include a sufficient number of Black-owned businesses instead of those owned by other members of minority groups.
For Bronzeville residents, the project may renew concerns that the historic Black neighborhood is gentrifying under the guise of “urban renewal.” Many Asians and whites are moving deeper into the neighborhood and buying homes whose values remain the highest in decades.
Scott Goodman, a partner in Farpoint Development, said that if the city approves the zoning, he hopes construction will start in the fall of 2021 in the first $675 million phase. During this phase, Israel Sheba Medical Center will be built along with new streets, sidewalks and bike paths. A second phase would break ground by 2025.
Developers reportedly plan to request TIF funding for infrastructure improvements and a new Metra station on 31st street.
An official with Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development reportedly said the project could receive $31 million in subsidies from the tax increment financing program. Most of the money would be used to clean up the site where a radium processing plant operated in the early 1900s near 26th Street and King. The city’s Department of Assets, Information, and Services would oversee the cleanup of the radioactive site.