City Hall Starts Process to Finally Do Something with Former Michael Reese Hospital Site

Site of the former Michael Reese Hospital (Courtesy of Joe Zekas/YoChicago!)

Site of the former Michael Reese Hospital (Courtesy of Joe Zekas/YoChicago!)

For as much as Chicago as a whole, and its mayors in particular, talk about how much the city loves the lakefront, there sure is an awful lot of abandoned land along the lake.

One of those eyesores may finally be put to use, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced that the city will soon accept proposals for redeveloping the 49-acre Michael Reese Hospital site in Bronzeville.

The medical center was a going concern from 1881 until 2008 when it shut down and transferred its patients elsewhere. In 2009, the entire complex was leveled. Since then, a number of plans have been floated for the space; most notably the 2016 Olympic Village, and more recently, the Lucas Museum which will likely end up in San Francisco.

Now the Mayor’s office is itching to sell the land and put it back to productive (read: tax-paying) use. The city will start accepting ideas next week, and the window closes in February of next year. So put on your thinking caps and fire up your CAD programs. Or maybe read the press release below first. That’s probably a better place to start.

Mayor Emanuel Announces Redevelopment Of Former Michael Reese Hospital Site On South Side Is Moving Forward

Proposals Will Be Accepted Over Four Months Starting in October; Redevelopment Expected to Generate Thousands of Jobs and Major Economic Impact

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced the City of Chicago is moving forward with the mixed-use redevelopment of the 49-acre former site of Michael Reese Hospital in Bronzeville. The site has sat unused since 2009 and its redevelopment has the potential to create thousands of jobs and generate a major economic impact on South Side and well beyond its location.

“The Michael Reese site has been vacant for nearly ten years. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform a part of the south side and generate economic opportunities that will reach throughout Chicago,” Mayor Emanuel said. “With projects like this we are investing in the economic growth of our neighborhoods, in this case Bronzeville, building a brighter future block by block and neighborhood by neighborhood.”

More than 3,000 full-time jobs could be generated by an approximately 6.5 million square-foot, multi-phase redevelopment project, according to a 2013 study commissioned by the City. The study also highlighted potential improvements that were identified during a community outreach process involving a nearby Metra Electric Line station, local bus routes, open space amenities, cultural resources, and potential lakefront connections.

The Chicago Community Development Commission will consider the Request for Proposals (RFP) authorization at its October meeting. Following Commission approval the City will issue the RFP on October 12, 2016 and begin accepting mixed-use development proposals. Final submissions will be due in the offices of the Department of Planning and Development by Feb. 22, 2017. Responses may include one or more projects involving commercial, institutional, residential and recreational uses.

“With recent development to the north and planned redevelopment to the south, this project will connect neighborhoods and enhance the quality of life for all,” Chicago Deputy Mayor and Chief Neighborhood Development Officer Andrea Zopp said. “Residents who participated in the planning process should know that their input was valued and will be accounted for in this RFP.”

Generally bounded by 26th Street, Martin Luther King Drive, 31st Street, and Illinois Central railroad tracks, the site was acquired by the City in 2009 after the hospital closed. It was subsequently cleared of all buildings except for the 72,800-square-foot Singer Pavilion, which could be renovated and repurposed.

In cooperation with the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA), the City will consider proposals that incorporate air rights above 28 acres of largely vacant property directly east of Michael Reese. Known as the “marshalling yards” and owned by MPEA, the property is used by trucks and other vehicles that service local trade shows. Reponses that include the yards must accommodate their function and purpose.

“This is an exciting opportunity for MPEA and Chicago,” MPEA CEO Lori Healey said, “The location provides a strategic development opportunity that will enhance our ability to compete for meetings, events, conventions and trade shows; providing additional assets for new and existing customers without impacting the important operations of the marshalling yards.”

“The potential to expand the development site to the east will also afford better connections to the lakefront while enhancing north-south connections between downtown and the mid-south side,” DPD Commissioner David Reifman said. “The potential for a larger footprint should also lead to more high-quality and creative development proposals.”

“I am happy we are beginning the process to develop the Michael Reese site and I look forward to engaging the community as the process advances,” Alderman Sophia King (4th) said. “This site has incredible potential to create new jobs and drive economic growth in the fourth ward and community input is an important part of that vision.”

According to the RFP, the selected developer must demonstrate an implementable development vision in line with the City’s goals to connect the site with the city’s street grid, generate jobs and create people-oriented amenities for the entire neighborhood.

The selected developer will be responsible for all planning, site preparation and related requirements to enable construction to move forward, according to the RFP. The City may consider the use of public funding from the Bronzeville Tax Increment Financing District to pay certain eligible costs involving environmental remediation and infrastructure improvements.

The RFP will be presented to the Community Development Commission on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016. A pre-submittal conference is scheduled for Nov. 2 with proposals due Feb. 22, 2017. A developer could be selected in the spring of 2017.

The RFP will be available online and at DPD offices at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St. #1000, Chicago, IL.

Location: 500 East 29th Street, Bronzeville

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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