King, 4th Ward residents want Michael Reese Hospital site to be community center

Ald. Sophia King (Herald file photo)

Staff writer

Over the past decade, the former Michael Reese Hospital Site has been listed for many developments, from a site for the summer Olympic bid in 2016 to a casino proposed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, but Ald. Sophia King (4th) looks forward to the site being a community hub for Bronzeville residents.

On Oct. 8, King hosted a community meeting at Northeastern Illinois Carruthers Center, 700 E Oakwood Blvd., attended by residents of the 4th Ward and a team that calls itself GRIT (Global, Research, Innovation and Tech or Tourism), led by Farpoint Development and representatives from several local and national organizations.

Regina Stilp, one of the members of the development team, presented updated plans that included multifamily and senior housing, a health and wellness campus, a data center, a community space and an extension of the Metra Station to 31st street.

According to Stilp, the plans changed slightly from earlier in the year to meet the recommendations made by the 22-member Michael Reese Community Advisory Council that requested affordable housing accommodations, internships and other educational opportunities on the site, local and small business support, a community space and an homage to the former hospital.

Throughout the evening, both King and the development team emphasized that the plan is not complete and may continue to evolve.

After the presentation, residents were given the opportunity to ask questions. Comments and questions ranged from parking, gentrification, youth input, senior living and more.

One member of the advisory council, Zakiyyah Muhammad, was concerned about the size of the community space and asked about more retail and residential space.

“I went on a trip and saw how they were building in the White community’” she said. “The people that are building for them make sure that they have all of the necessary conveniences right there for them. I don’t know if the community space or center needs to be there or do the health campus need to be so big. Can there be more retail and residential housing like the White communities have?

“We really want to be proud of this area. This is where our ancestors migrated when they were running from Jim Crow slavery.”

After Muhammad’s comment, King said that she agreed that she does not want a community space that will not be utilized by the community and the plans may change.

“I agree, we want everything that a vibrant community has to have. All of those positive things. I think this first phase has that. A lot of these spaces could move, that’s what our advisory committee and the input we get from other people will tell us. This isn’t written in stone. This is the direction that we are heading right now,” said King before closing out the meeting.