On the Mend

Chicago to issue RFP for Michael Reese Hospital site

Development Midwest
The now demolished main building of Michael Reese Hospital was completed in 1905. (Eric Allix Rogers/Flickr)
The now demolished main building of Michael Reese Hospital was completed in 1905. (Eric Allix Rogers/Flickr)

October 12th will mark the start of the City of Chicago’s search for a developer for the former site of the Michael Reese Hospital in the city’s Bronzeville neighborhood. The 49-acre site has been owned by the city since 2009, when it was envisioned as a potential Olympic village for the failed Chicago 2016 Olympic bid. Now the city is looking for developers through a four-month long open request for proposals (RFP).

The sprawling Michael Reese Hospital first opened in the 1880s with a stated goal of serving anyone, regardless of nationality or race. Throughout its history, the complex included an educational component and was dedicated to charity, research, and education. When the hospital was shuttered in 2009, it mostly served the African American community of the near South Side.

MRH_CHI_Olympic Village

The Micheal Reese Hospital site played a large role in the failed 2016 Chicago Olympics bid. The land was earmarked to be the Olympic Village. (2016 Chicago Olympic Bid)

Before its demolition, starting in 2009, the campus included buildings stretching back over 100 years. It also included a group of structures built starting 1946 based on a plan by Walter Gropius, and designed by multiple Chicago firms. The site also included ornate 19th-century  buildings and turn of the century Prairie Style buildings. By 2012 nearly the entire site had been cleared, save for the 72,800-square-foot Singer Pavilion, which will be included in the RFP for redevelopment. The demolition of the hospital was not without complication, though. Due to a radium separation company that was once on the site, the land includes three acres of contaminated radioactive land. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated that any development will have to remediate the site before construction can begin. The city has noted that money from a Tax Increment Financing District in Bronzeville may be made available to help with to cost of site improvements.

According to a September 30th press release from the city, the RFP will require developers to “connect the site with the city’s street grid, generate jobs, and create people-oriented amenities for the entire neighborhood.” That same press release also stated that the projects may involve recreational, residential, institutional, or commercial uses. As with many of the superblock projects in the city, it is expected that the final project will be mixed-use. Developers will also have access to air rights over the 28-acre site directly east of the Reese land, which is owned by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA), owners of Navy Pier and the McCormick Center.

“The Michael Reese site has been vacant for nearly ten years. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform a part of the south side and generate economic opportunities that will reach throughout Chicago,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in the city’s press release announcing the RFP. “With projects like this we are investing in the economic growth of our neighborhoods, in this case Bronzeville, building a brighter future block by block and neighborhood by neighborhood.”

The RFP will be available Wednesday, October 12th, online and at DPD offices at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St. #1000, Chicago, IL.

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