Paperwork Filed to Turn the Old Michael Reese Site Into Something Better

One-point-six million square feet of fallow ground along the lakefront just south of McCormick Place are inching toward rejuvenation, thanks to new paperwork filed at Chicago City Hall.

The land between 26th and 31st Streets has been empty since the old Michael Reese Hospital complex was torn down a decade ago.   There have been a number of ideas promulgated for it over the years, but none have stuck so far.  In fact, it’s still zoned for the 2016 Summer Olympic Village.  Oops!

Chicago Summer Olympics 2016 sign
We’ll just leave this here.

This latest plan positions the space as a medical research neighborhood, with a few thousand new homes, millions of square feet of offices and retail space, and a new Metra station to replace the one at 27th Street.  All this for a cool six billion dollars.

But big plans don’t mean only big business is invited.  The filing explains,

…the Applicant has voluntarily agreed to consult with the local alderman’s office prior to entering into any initial lease of pedestrian level retail space within this Planned Development to an end user to confirm that retail leasing opportunities have been marketed to local-owned and small businesses.

When it comes to streets, expect extensions of 26th Street and Lake Park Avenue.  Also, new segments of 27th, 29th, and 30th streets, but disconnected from the rest of the city’s street grid.

May 2020 rendering of the former Michael Reese Hospital site redevelopment.

If you are worried about the Singer Pavilion, don’t.  It has not been invited to the wrecking ball.  The developer is going to renovate it, and is obligated “to retain the character-defining features.”

May 2020 diagram of the former Michael Reese Hospital site redevelopment.

For those of you who thought that the Reese site would be perfect for Chicago’s first casino, you just rolled snake eyes.  The zoning rules specifically prohibit gambling operations at this location.  Except if you’re selling tickets to your kid’s school raffle, or a church bingo hall opens up.  Those are still kosher.  So to speak.

Because this project is getting TIF funding, the affordable housing requirement has been boosted from 10% to 20%.  Even if at some point in the future the developer changes its mind about taking your tax dollars, it is still obligated to that 20% mark because some of this property is former city-owned land.  If all 4,800 residential units are built, the affordable housing requirement will be 960 units, or the cash equivalent.

This project’s open spaces will be privately-owned, but must be open to the public from 6am to 11pm every day.  One will be a triangle of land bounded by 29th Street, Cottage Grove, and Vernon Avenue.  A second will be a good sized quadrangle along 29th Street between Cottage Grove and Lake Park, and the third will be an odd shape down at 31st Street, between Cottage Grove and Lake Park.

The space at 31st street must be finished before the city will issue an occupancy permit for the first big building.  

  • Address: 2601-3045 South Ellis Avenue
  • Address: 2600-3001 South Ellis Avenue
  • Address: 2900-3030 South Cottage Grove Avenue
  • Address: 2901-3001 South Cottage Grove Avenue
  • Address: 2600-2900 South Lake Park Avenue
  • Address: 533 East 29th Street
  • Address: 401-434 East 26th Street
  • Address: 2701-2955 South Vernon Avenue
  • Address: 440-598 East 31st Street
  • Address: 2601-2627 South Martin Luther King Drive
  • Developer: GRIT Chicago, LLC
  • Net site area: 1,612,716 square feet
  • Maximum floor area ratio: 5.0
  • Zoning: PD1133, RM-5 -> B3-5 -> BRPD
  • Maximum height: 450 feet
  • Maximum number of residences: 4,800
May 2020 rendering of the former Michael Reese Hospital site redevelopment.

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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