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Mayor Brandon Johnson mum on potential migrant shelter at shuttered downtown Chicago museum

City considering migrant shelter at now-closed River North museum
City considering migrant shelter at now-closed River North museum 02:29

CHICAGO (CBS) -- City Hall was tight-lipped Wednesday about reports the Johnson administration has toured the shuttered museum in the River North neighborhood as a potential shelter for migrants.

Mayor Brandon Johnson didn't give a direct answer when asked a yes or no question about the city's efforts to explore the former Chicago Museum of Broadcast Communications to possibly house asylum seekers.

Earlier this week, Ald. Brendan Reilly released a statement saying the mayor was considering a migrant shelter at the Marina City complex, where that museum used to be, on State Street just north of the Chicago River.

Originally, Johnson's office said, "There are no plans to convert Hotel Chicago, 333 N. Dearborn, into shelter for new arrivals."

Since then, CBS 2 has learned it could be a different address at the same complex the mayor is considering as a possible migrant shelter – the shuttered Museum of Broadcast Communications at 360 N. State St.

Wednesday afternoon, Reilly released a statement saying he was "incredibly disappointed the Mayor's Office was not forthright when asked if the Marina City Complex in River North was being considered for a migrant hotel that could house up to 1,000 migrants."

"While the Administration was correct when they said 333 North Dearborn was not being considered to serve as a migrant facility, they chose to omit the fact that they are considering another address at Marina City for migrant housing at 360 North State Street," Reilly added. "This morning, my staff contacted the new owners of the former Museum of Broadcast Communications located at 360 North State Street and confirmed that members of the Johnson Administration did recently tour the facility and expressed a strong interest in potentially using the site for future migrant housing."

"The Administration's careful use of semantics; dishonesty by omission; and total disregard for public transparency around potential sites for migrant housing is not good government, it is wrong. The residents of Chicago should not continue to be left in the dark when impactful decisions are being made regarding potential migrant housing facilities in their communities," Reilly added. "Mayor Johnson's failure to create and implement a comprehensive plan to manage the migrant crisis isn't just disappointing, it is totally unacceptable."

Johnson was asked repeatedly about whether his office is considering the museum site, but would not answer directly, only saying that his administration is assessing multiple sites across the city.

"There has been some confusion. Everything that I've said, I've meant, and so if you haven't heard it from me, then you don't have to be confused about it," he said. "What I've said repeatedly is that we're looking for locations throughout the entire city, and when we put forth an idea or particular location and space, nothing we do is done surreptitiously. So we do it out loud."

The possibility of a migrant shelter at the former Museum of Broadcast Communications comes as Johnson's plans to build a migrant tent camp at 115th and Halsted streets were stalled on Wednesday, when the City Council delayed a final vote on plans to purchase the site for $1, in the face of objections from Ald. Ronnie Mosley (21st) and several other aldermen who refused to go against Mosley's wishes.

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