Chicago’s $3.8B Bronzeville Lakefront Revamp Gets Pivotal Approval

The Plan Commission gave the go-ahead for developers to move forward with the project, which is expected to include 7 million square feet of mixed-use space.

Bronzeville Lakefront, Chicago
Bronzeville Lakefront. Image via Google Street View

The Bronzeville Lakefront project, the Global Research Innovation & Tourism group’s $3.8 billion proposed redevelopment of the former Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center site on Chicago’s Near South Side, just took a major step forward.

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At a meeting on February 18, the Chicago Plan Commission gave GRIT—a team that consists of Farpoint Development, Loop Capital Management, McLaurin Development Partners, Draper & Kramer, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and Bronzeville Community Development Partnership—its approval to move forward with the project, which will yield a 7 million-square-foot mixed-use destination spanning 2 miles along the waterfront.

“It’s going to take a while to get this thing built; there’s a lot to do here. We think it could take up to 20 years. We hope a lot less time than that, but there will be a lot of benefit to it,” Scott Goodman, managing director with Farpoint Development, said during a virtual community town hall meeting that city officials held on the Bronzeville Lakefront project on October 14, 2020. “The indirect economic benefit for the entire region will be over $8 billion [over a 20-year period].”

The first phase of the Bronzeville Lakefront Project will be realized at an investment of $600 million and will involve activity on the southern end of the property. The segment will encompass the 500,000-square-foot Chicago Arc Innovation Building, which will feature Israel’s Sheeba Medical Center as its anchor, senior housing, a Bronzeville welcome center and a new park. Additionally, the Singer Pavilion, the only structure left standing from the Michael Reese complex, will undergo a repurposing. The $3 billion second phase of the Bronzeville Lakefront project at the opposite end of the site will produce medical facilities, pedestrian-oriented retail space, office square footage, additional residential buildings with mixed-income housing, a data center and open spaces.

In addition to the vacated, nearly 50-acre Michael Reese Hospital site, the Bronzeville Lakefront project will encompass the existing Prairie Shores workforce housing community. Farpoint acquired the 20-acre multifamily property, which neighbors the hospital site and features more than 1,600 units, in 2019. All told, 20 percent of all future residential units at the Bronzeville Lakefront redevelopment will be reserved as affordable housing.

Pieces falling into place

The City of Chicago purchased the Michael Reese hospital site in 2009, a year after the facility closed its doors, and selected GRIT through a Request for Proposal to develop the land in 2017. Fast-forward past the planning stage and today, the project is moving closer to a start date at a time when Chicago is perhaps most in need of such a boost to its economy.

“We see almost 31,000 full-time jobs being created; there will be over 17,000 construction jobs on this site over this time and the total estimated construction-related jobs both direct and indirect will be more than 45,000. So, this is a big economic driver for our city, for our community for our neighborhood, especially at a time now with COVID-19, with the economic downturn,” Goodman added. “It’s a great time. Our project really is going to not only be good for our neighborhood but include our entire neighborhood.”

Before GRIT can break ground on the Bronzeville Lakefront project, the team must secure final approvals from the City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards and the full City Council. If all goes as planned, infrastructure construction will commence in 2021.

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