The team behind the large-scale Michael Reese Hospital redevelopment unveiled more details about the urban design and community spaces for the project at a community meeting hosted by Ald. Sophia King (4th) on Wednesday.
There was little new information presented about the basics of the $6 billion, two-phase development since the previous meeting in May. The site is still slated to have 20% affordable housing and 65% minority-led business participation, with a 500,000-square foot medical research facility as its centerpiece.
During the first phase of development, the current 27th Street Metra station will be relocated to 31st Street, and over 300 units of senior housing are slated to be built. Construction of streets and utilities for the first phase of development are scheduled to start halfway through 2021, with the first buildings following a year later. The second phase — which will include more general retail, residential and mixed-use development — is set to begin in 2025.
Cynthia Roubik, assistant commissioner with the city’s Department of Planning and Development, said that the paperwork for the redevelopment agreement, which outlines the public benefits that will be part of the project, will be submitted to the Chicago Plan Commission before the end of the year by GRIT, the consortium of companies that have teamed up for the development. A zoning proposal was submitted to City Council this past June.
The presentation, however, did include some fresh details about the general layout and building design of the project, as well as specifics about the community-focused Bronzeville Welcoming Center.
Dawveed Scully, an urban designer with the architecture firm SOM, gave more details about the 10 acres of open space that will be part of the eventual site. It’s divided into different categories, which together form what Scully called a “quilted landscape”: a greenway that connects the different parts of the development, large parks at 31st Street and 29th Street, and “social rooms” that will host community programming.
The ARC Innovation Center will also include the Bronzeville Welcoming Center, a 40,000-square-foot community space. “There’s a lot of opportunities for a variety of types of program, whether it’s focused around history, around the culture of the community, music, art, performance,” said Scully, adding that the atrium space could be used for “larger-scale murals or a rotating exhibit.”
John Smith, pastor of Bronzeville’s Olivet Baptist Church, added that he would like to see the center used to highlight the history of the area. “We want to utilize public art and accessible public spaces that are designated to memorializing and highlighting the rich history of Michael Reese,” he said, as well as advocating for programming to highlight the history of Bronzeville before and after the Great Migration.
Scully said that, to that end, the building itself will use brick and stone to mimic the “mason character” of the neighborhood, so it doesn’t “feel like a giant block that landed from out of space.”
That also included, he said, incorporating elements of the modernist design that the original hospital, largely designed by Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius, was known for. Scully added that the Singer Pavilion — the only one of the original campus buildings to escape demolition — would be “highlighted.”
One question during the meeting also dealt with the question of gentrification. Leonard McGee, a local resident and president of the GAP Community Organization, pointed out that there would at least be no displacement, since no people live on the current site.
“Right now, that piece of property can only go up,” he said. “The real displacement came on that land when Michael Reese bought it, because it used to be the housing near was actually African American homes. So that gentrification piece over time has already occurred. I think what's going to happen now, we will be bringing more people into the area that had no access to the area previously.”
King sounded a slightly more cautious note, pointing to the Stratford condominium complex at 26th Street and Indiana Avenue. “Certainly it can affect sites next to it, folks like the Stratford condominiums or other communities that live right next to it,” she said. “I can't say that this won't have an impact on them, but we certainly have been thinking and trying to strategically think about, you know, how we deal with affordable housing. But also, you know, we want market rehousing on there as well and we want commercial and businesses.”
“It’s community growth, and sometimes growth happens with the community, and sometimes it happens without the community,” she continued. “And so we’re just being intentional to make sure that change happens with the community.”
For more information about the project, as well as future community meetings, visit the city’s webpage for it at chicago.gov/city/en/depts/dcd/supp_info/former-michael-reese-hospital-site.html.