The battle to save the modernist and Prairie-style buildings at the old Michael Reese Hospital was one of the most heated in the closing years of the Daley administration. Preservationists lost most of the battle, and the 37-acre site has been largely cleared, most of its modern buildings—attributed to Walter Gropius and others—and landscape by Hideo Sasaki have been bulldozed. In January, the city of Chicago issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for development and design teams to rethink the vast site, which holds significant economic potential for the near South Side. In early March, 11 teams submitted proposals, including major players in development, planning, and architecture.
Located near McCormick Place and the Lake, and not far from the Loop, the site is prime for redevelopment—the city hopes—as lending increases and the economy gradually improves. The city purchased it for $91 million in hopes of building an Olympic Village there for the 2016 Games, a hope that was soon dashed when Rio de Janeiro won the competition to be host city. The economy was already beginning its rapid contraction, leaving the city with a costly purchase amid a weakening real estate climate.
At the start, the Daley administration pushed for a technology park on the site, a proposal the new RFP reinforces but does not require. The city expects that proximity to three universities, especially Illinois Institute of Technology, will bolster the possibility of a technology campus. The RFP calls for the creation of “high-quality, 21st century jobs,” sustainable development, and plans attracting and fostering new companies as well as encouraging redevelopment in the adjacent neighborhoods and a positive return on investment for the city.
Responding teams include U.S. Equities working with Cooper Robertson & Partners; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture; Forest City; Chicago Consultant Studio; CBRE with Arcadis; Solomon Cordwell Buenz; Lakota Group; Jones Lang LaSalle; exp U.S. Services; and Higgins Development Partners. The selected team will be given two years to develop their proposal, though the winning team is expected to lay out phasing framework and additional development partners and financing by the end of 2012.