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. 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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Obama library round-up: Woodlawn, Lakeside, Bronzeville and more vying for nation's 14th presidential library
Speculation over the future site of President Barack Obama’s presidential library has picked up as a slew of Chicago sites—as well as some in New York, Hawaii, and even Kenya—made the June deadline for proposals. Ultimately the decision is up to the President and the board tasked with developing what will be the nation’s 14th presidential library, but dozens of groups are attempting to tug at that group's ears. (Even I used AN's June editorial page to consider the library's urban impact.) Here’s a round-up of some of the Chicago proposals made public so far. 63rd Street New York-based Michael Sorkin Studio released its plan for the library in January, proposing a campus stretched out along three blocks of 63rd Street in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. They’re “highly conceptual” designs, as are most floated so far, but the plan calls for a campus centered around a ring-shaped building and extending several blocks. The development would make use of dozens of vacant lots in a struggling neighborhood adjacent to the University of Chicago. Bronzeville There’s a concerted effort to bring Obama’s library to Bronzeville, the South Side neighborhood and “black metropolis” vying to become a national heritage area. One prominent site there is the area once home to the Michael Reese Hospital. Combined with parking lots on the other side of South Lake Shore Drive, the site would total 90 acres of lakefront property. It’s been targeted for other large developments, including a casino, a data center and housing for Olympic athletes during Chicago’s failed 2016 bid. A few years ago SOM led a team of designers and developers tasked with sizing up the site for redevelopment, and you can read their plans here. HOK recently floated a plan for redevelopment of the Michael Reese site, including a rendering (at top) of the proposed library. Lakeside McCaffery Interests and U.S. Steel teamed up to rehabilitate that industrial giant’s nearly 600-acre lake infill site in the neighborhood of South Chicago. It’s the largest undeveloped site in the city. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet first reported last week that McCaffery threw his hat in the ring for Obama's library. Renderings from SOM, Lakeside’s lead design firm, show a heavy walkway that twists elegantly upward around a glass box, jutting over Lake Michigan that appears here as if it were the world’s largest reflecting pool. Chicago State University Down the road from Lakeside, Chicago State University is also a potential site. It's situated in Roseland, where Obama worked as a community organizer. For the Huffington Post, Hermene Hartman argued CSU is the best place for the library, because it would have the greatest neighborhood impact. University of Chicago The U of C called the library "an historic opportunity for our community," and—to no one's surprise—submitted a proposal to bring Obama's legacy back to where he taught law. They set up a website for the bid, but no images or details are publicly available at this time. University of Illinois Chicago U of I is among the institutions of higher education vying for the library, and it has proposed three plans on the West Side: a 23-acre site in North Lawndale; an “academic” option at UIC-Halsted; and a “medical” option at the Illinois Medical District, which is also home to another long-vacant white elephant—the Cook County Hospital building. McCormick Place As reported by Ted Cox for DNAinfo Chicago, Ward Miller, president of Preservation Chicago, thinks the library could revitalize the underused Lakeside Center East Building at McCormick Place, the massive convention center on Chicago’s near South Side. Miller previously proposed that the building be considered for George Lucas' Museum of Narrative Art.