King warns Michael Reese site ‘off the table’ for Chicago casino

Ald. Sophia King (Herald file photo)

HERALD STAFF REPORT

Ald. Sophia King (4th) reiterated her opposition to a casino at the site of the former Michael Reese Hospital in Bronzeville, after the Illinois General Assembly cleared the way for a huge casino to be built in Chicago.

“Given what just came out of Springfield, there’s been speculation of where the site might be in Chicago,” she said in a Tuesday interview after her office issued a statement calling the hypothetical location “off-the-table.” “I just wanted to get out in front of it and let people know the will of the community is that the casino not be at the former Michael Reese site.”

King called the opposition from the 4th Ward multifaceted. “Casinos tend to have a deleterious impact on the communities and the surrounding communities that they’re in, especially underserved Black and Brown communities,” she said. “I also think, given the storied and deep history in Bronzeville, that having a casino there would be in direct conflict with what that community historically means to the City of Chicago and the people who have lived there and made it such a historic place.”

At each of King’s ward meetings this year, she has presented plans for a “vibrant residential and commercial area … that the community has been trying to build up again” at the Michael Reese site. King also takes offense at the insinuation that gambling and a casino “are the only things that can bring development to the area.

“I would say that the community feels that that’s not the case, and furthermore that casinos deter other amenities like restaurants, small businesses and all the other things that make up a vibrant community,” she said.

King’s Michael Reese Advisory Council has met with Farpoint Developments LLC and suggested a residential component, perhaps for seniors or artists, and a commercial component anchored by a science or technology hub associated with a university or company. She said there is black, unused optical fiber at the site that could be used for telecommunications infrastructure, ample green space and room for a Metra station at 31st Street on the Electric Line near the 31st Street Beach, tying together community spaces.

The Michael Reese Hospital, 2929 S. Ellis Ave., anchored a 48-acre campus before closing in January 2009. The site is currently vacant.

In a January interview with the Herald, King expressed opposition to a casino in Chicago unless it was established in an existing tourist area like Navy Pier; she reiterated that position on Tuesday.

herald@hpherald.com