BRONZEVILLE — The developers of the former Michael Reese Hospital site are releasing their first ideas for the 144-acre site that lean towards tech with or without Amazon.
Scott Goodman, founder of Farpoint Development — which is leading a team of developers picked by the city to revitalize the site the city had once hoped would be housing for athletes for the Olympics — said Monday the team is starting to figure out where to begin on the huge site.
“It is uniquely positioned with high-capacity fiber cables running through it,” Goodman said. “Everything that streams — and that’s how everything travels online now — goes through fiber cable.”
The site is on a menu of options the city is presenting to Amazon to try to lure it to build it’s second headquarters in the city. The city formerly submitted its bid to the online giant Monday. In the process, Goodman and the other developers behind Burnham Lakefront, as the project has been dubbed, are discovering the site could work for lots of tech firms.
There are large fiber optic cables running down the Metra tracks bordering the site on the east and more just west of the site running down Martin Luther King Drive. The connectivity is a potential boon when hoping to lure in tech firms that need speed to get a split-second advantage over competitors or data-hungry firms like data storage centers.
Goodman acknowledged that windowless buildings full of computer servers are not going to help knit the development into the new community as the team has promised and said they’re looking for something to jumpstart the whole project.
“We need to kick it off with something, what that is we don’t know yet,” Goodman said.
He said while the team watches for big companies like Amazon that could be lured in to be a catalyst for the entire site, it’s thinking of ways to jumpstart things itself by restoring the Singer Pavilion, the last of the former hospital buildings still standing on the site, and a park or another public amenity near 31st Street that will draw people in.
Goodman said 31st Street will be the doorway to the entire site and the connection to the existing community and said people should expect to see activity there first.
But the developers still do not technically own the property and are still negotiating a redevelopment agreement with the city, which Goodman said he thinks will be finalized in the first quarter of next year.
He said the plan is still to build housing, retail and a mix of uses that will make it feel like other dense neighborhoods in the city — and all without a casino.
Goodman said a casino is still off the table.
He said the team is still considering options for McCormick Place’s truck marshalling yards — huge parking lots used for conventions and even tailgating at Bears games — but it will likely come later when it can be assured that it does not affect conventions or other events at McCormick Place.
The developers imagine a lot of different types of uses on the site, with tech firms being an obvious first choice.
The site needs something to kick start things, developers said.
The site is bordered by fiber optic cables that developers hope will appeal to tech firms.