City Council Approves Chicago’s Next Megadevelopment In Bronzeville

Bronzeville Lakefront
A rendering of part of the proposed Bronzeville Lakefront megadevelopment, which could get final approval Wednesday Courtesy of City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development
Bronzeville Lakefront
A rendering of part of the proposed Bronzeville Lakefront megadevelopment, which could get final approval Wednesday Courtesy of City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development

City Council Approves Chicago’s Next Megadevelopment In Bronzeville

A long-vacant swath of Chicago’s Lakefront that officials once hoped would host the Olympics is set to become the city’s next megadevelopment.

The City of Chicago is selling 50 acres that used to be home to Michael Reese Hospital to a team of developers for $97 million. That’s approximately the same price the city paid for the property along the Bronzeville lakefront in 2008.

The City Council approved the land sale, as well as the needed rezoning and $60 million from the city to build roads, sidewalks and a public park on Wednesday.

“It will be a truly impactful project, bringing billions of economic development dollars into our city, back into our tax base,” said Ald. Sophia King, 4th Ward, who represents the area.

The property has been a drain on the city’s balance sheets ever since former Mayor Richard M. Daley purchased the old hospital and surrounding land during the city’s failed bid to host the 2016 Olympics.

Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel put it out to bid in 2015 and refinanced the debt on the dormant property two years later.

Now, a group of developers, known as GRIT, will redevelop the massive property with a mix of commercial space, retail stores and housing. The new Bronzeville Lakefront development will also feature a museum honoring Bronzeville’s history, two public parks and a senior housing complex.

Map of bronzeville megadevelopment location
A map shows the location where a group of developers, known as GRIT, will redevelop a massive property with a mix of commercial space, retail stores and housing. Courtesy of City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development

“It’s going to be a legacy for the next 100 years, as Michael Reese was on this property before,” said Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th Ward, chairman of the city’s Zoning Committee.

The package of measures that got final approval Wednesday outlines specific rules the developers will need to follow relating to construction, hiring from the local community and building affordable housing. For instance, 30% of the subcontractors must be minority-owned firms and 10% must be owned by women. Developers have also committed to making 20% of the 5,000 expected residential units on site affordable.

One measure also allocates the $60 million from the city’s capital budget to make infrastructure improvements.

King negotiated a number of other community benefits, including a commitment that 10% of all retail space will be set aside for local businesses, which will get a 20% discount on rent.

Under the plan, the developers also will spend $10 million to build a community center and give $25 million to Chicago Public Schools for improvements at nearby schools.

Becky Vevea, Mariah Woelfel and Claudia Morell cover City of Chicago government and politics for WBEZ. Follow them @beckyvevea, @mariahwoelfel and @claudiamorell.