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City Panel Backs $97 Million Sale Of Vacant Michael Reese Hospital Site For Massive 'Bronzeville Lakefront' Development

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A $3.8 billion plan to redevelop the long-vacant Michael Reese Hospital site on the South Side moved a step closer to reality on Tuesday, as the Community Development Commission approved selling 48 acres of public land to private developers for $97 million.

The vote comes four years after former Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration chose GRIT, LLC – a team of developers consisting of Farpoint Development, Loop Capital Management, McLaurin Development Partners, Draper & Kramer, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and Bronzeville Community Development Partnership – to overhaul the site.

The city purchased the site for $91 million in 2009, with aims of using it as part of an Olympic village as it bid for the 2016 Olympics, but it has sat unused ever since, after the city lost the summer games to Rio de Janeiro.

GRIT's $3.8 billion "Bronzeville Lakefront" plan for the site would include approximately 6,800 units of new housing, and nearly 8 million square feet of mixed-use space – including office, retail, research, healthcare, and data center facilities, as well as park space.

The $600 million first phase of the project, expected to begin later this year, would involve construction of a new 500,000-square foot medical research site dubbed the ARC Innovation Center, which would feature both retail space and a community center; more than 300 units of senior housing, featuring solar panels, a rooftop deck, and retail and café space; and redevelopment of Singer Pavilion, the only remaining building from Reese Hospital.

The $3 billion second phase of the project would add additional medical research facilities, mixed-income housing, retail stores, office space, and park land that would be built over the next two decades. Construction on the second phase is expected to begin as early as 2023.

Since the developers are purchasing city-owned land for the project, at least 20% of the new housing they build must have reduced rents for people with lower incomes, or more than 1,300 affordable units.

Developers have said the project could create approximately $2 billion in property tax revenue over 20 years. It is also expected to create more than 2,800 temporary construction jobs and 1,200 permanent jobs.

According to published reports, the city will repay the developers $60 million for the cost of rebuilding and extending city streets as part of the project, and $30 million in clean-up costs from a hazardous waste plant that was once on the site. City officials said that cost largely will be covered by federal funding.

The land sale and development plan still require approval by the City Council Zoning Committee and the full City Council. City officials expect those votes to come sometime this summer.


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