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October 27, 2009

New mixed-use community underway for Michael Reese

Demolition project will preserve two buildings on hospital campus

Molly Sullivan    312.744.2976

The City of Chicago announced today that it will take the first step toward creating a new South Side mixed-income community at the Michael Reese Hospital campus.

Under plans provided by the Public Building Commission and the Department of Community Development, two buildings would be retained at the site – the Singer Pavilion, co-designed by modernist architect Walter Gropius, and the original main hospital building – with demolition on the remaining structures to begin this week. 

“Our goal from the beginning has been to make sure the city can recoup the money it spent to purchase the property. We believe that this plan offers the greatest opportunity for redevelopment of the site and we remain confident that this uniquely situated land is attractive to developers and will generate a lot of interest,” said Chris Raguso, Acting Commissioner of the Department of Community Development.

The city purchased the 37-acre parcel of land June 30, 2009 from Medline, Inc. Under terms of the purchase contract, the City does not have to make its first payment to Medline until October 2014.

The demolition costs are to be paid for by charitable contributions made by Medline to the City as agreed to at closing.

“We expect to issue requests for qualifications by the middle of 2010 and ultimately sell the land to a designated development entity in time for us to make our first payment,” Raguso said. Requests for proposals will be issued after developers are selected from a pool of qualified applicants.

Ultimately, the long-term viability of the Singer Pavilion and the final decision on whether to keep it will be determined through the request for proposal process to ensure that the city can recoup its $91 million purchase price.

“We believe that the main hospital and the Singer Pavilion offer the best chance for adaptive reuse,” Raguso added.

The Singer Pavilion is a stand-alone structure, one where adjacent demolition would not leave the building vulnerable to the elements and other risks. Its physical layout coupled with a design that allows for natural light to spill into each of its wings are features that make it attractive for reuse.

However, Raguso noted many of the other buildings have suffered from years of neglect and abandonment and are in very poor condition and it is not economically feasible to save them.

In order to save the other properties on the site, the City would have to spend a significant amount of money each year to secure and maintain the series of interconnected buildings that are, in many cases, in advanced stages of deterioration.

The campus stretches from roughly 26th Street on the north to 31st Street and Vernon Avenue on the west to the Illinois Central Railroad tracks and Lake Park Avenue to the east. 

The goal of the redevelopment is to create a mixed-use community that will feature market rate and affordable housing as well as retail businesses and open space and be easily integrated into the surrounding neighborhood.

“This will allow us to reap the greatest benefits from the site and pave the way for a new, vibrant community that will link the development from the South Loop to the Near South lakefront communities. It is also best for the taxpayers of Chicago,” Raguso added.

“We are pleased with the progress at the site so far and with the contracts we have in place,” said Erin Lavin Cabonargi, Executive Director of the Public Building Commission. "This project is expected to create dozens of jobs. Of the more than $12 million in contracts that have been awarded so far, almost 51 percent of the work totaling almost $6.5 million has been awarded to minority- and women-owned businesses.”

The Brandenburg Industrial Service Co. contract included a 44.66% commitment for the participation of minority and women-owned business enterprises. The Heneghan Wrecking included a commitment to 46.96% MBE/WBE participation. Both contracts call for at least 50% of project labor to be performed by City residents and for 15% of labor to be performed by community residents.