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Chicago’s plan to attract Amazon to the old Michael Reese Hospital site breaks cover

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The mixed-use plan is the fourth such development to break cover since Amazon began its HQ2 search


With Amazon’s October 19th deadline fast approaching, Chicago developers have officially taken the wraps off yet another site looking to lure the tech company’s coveted HQ2 second corporate headquarters to the Windy City. Dubbed the ‘Burnham Lakefront,’ the proposal provides the best look yet at the redevelopment plans for the former Michael Reese Hospital in the Bronzville neighborhood on Chicago’s Near South Side.

Vacant since the hospital was demolished in 2009, the lakefront property was purchased by the City of Chicago to serve as the Olympic village as part of Chicago’s unsuccessful bid for the 2016 summer games. In June, City Hall selected a team led by Farpoint Development and Draper & Kramer to redevelop the site. The joint venture reportedly agreed to pay more than $144 million for the property.

Though the city sale encompassed the 49-acre area occupied by the old hospital plus the 28-acre truck marshalling yards controlled by Chicago’s Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, the future mixed-use campus has grown to 100 acres. The scope of the project also includes an additional connected housing opportunity of 144 acres (34 acres to the immediate north plus 110 acres adjacent to the south).

Initially expected to feature “more than 5 million square feet” of technology-oriented commercial spaces, retail, homes, and hotel rooms, the plan has been super-sized to include 8 million to 14 million square feet depending on tenant needs and overall market demand.


“If Amazon or some other large corporation wants to be there, it’s open land where we can build whatever fits their needs,” Farpoint Development founding principal Scott Goodman told Chicago Tribune reporter Ryan Ori.

Newly released renderings by Chicago-based architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) provide a glimpse of what developers have in mind for the Reese site. The images show a number of high-rise towers, public plazas, and landscaped bridges spanning Lake Shore Drive to connect the development to Chicago’s lakeshore.

High-tech touches such as fiber optic data connections, on-site renewable energy generation, and dedicated traffic lanes for autonomous vehicles are reportedly on tap. The possibility of a new 31st Street train station is also still on the table.


Other recently-revealed prime Chicago HQ2 sites include the 37-acre River District from Tribune Media, Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards campus along the North Branch of the Chicago River, and 601 W Companies’ redevelopment of Chicago’s Old Post Office building. As with the other sites, the developers of the Burnham Lakefront plan to move forward with their plans—with or without Amazon as its anchor.