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10 Years Later, Former VA Hospital Site In Streeterville Still A Vacant Lot

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It's arguably the most expensive bunny patch in the city, so what's the deal with a long-vacant lot in Streeterville?

The lot bounded by McClurg, Erie, Fairbanks, and Huron is covered in vegetation, but it's not a public park.

Surrounded by skyscrapers in the pricy Streeterville neighborhood, many have wondered why it's been vacant for more than a decade.

In 2005, Northwestern Medicine posted an announcement on its website that Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago were securing a lease to land occupied by the shuttered VA Lakeside Medical Center.

The 75-year lease was expected to generate up to $50 million for the VA, and at the time Northwestern and the Rehabilitation Institute said they were eager to expand their facilities, but the lot has remained vacant, even after VA Lakeside was torn down in 2009.

The huge plot of land might just be the priciest undeveloped patch of land in Chicago, and because the owner is a non-profit, property taxes on the lot amount to zero dollars a year.

"It would be great if it was a space for the community; whether it's benches, or people can eat lunch, or kids can hang out, or a place for anyone who's at any of the medical centers in the area to be able to just relax between appointments," Karyn Rowe said.

That's apparently not going to happen.

The lush greenery on the lot is surrounded by a wrought iron fence. Rabbits in, people out; no park, or anything else for that matter.

"Every time I walk by it, I'm like, 'This is such a misuse of land.' It could be made into something that everyone could benefit from," Darryl Anderson said.

A Northwestern spokesperson said there are no immediate plans to expand onto the property, but they remain committed to maintaining a beautiful, natural space that enhances the Streeterville neighborhood.

Several years ago, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency asked Northwestern to come up with a safety plan for workers in the event of future construction on contaminated soil on the land, but the hospital said "The EPA issue has absolutely no bearing on the development of this property."

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