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Bronzeville Lakefront: big project not so big for Latinos

With $4 billion in play for a Bronzeville redevelopment, Latino leaders want the community to share - 

By Negocios Now staff

Chicago was unsuccessful in its attempt to host the 2016 Olympics and the second headquarters of Amazon. Now the city is moving on another set of plans for the long-vacant Bronzeville land mentioned as the site for both.

Latino leaders say those plans could be much better for the Latino community.

Bronzeville boom

What the city intends is $3.8 billion of reinvestment that would create housing, retail space, and medical research campus on the site of the old Michael Reese Hospital between 26th and 31st streets, just south of McCormick Place and next to the Metra tracks. The redevelopment is being led by GRIT Chicago, a development group selected by the city in 2017 to handle the project.

The latest activity came in mid-May when the Community Development Commission voted to sell the hospital land to GRIT for $97 million. Still required are approval of the zoning changes and land sale by the City Council committees for zoning, and for housing and real estate.

GRIT estimates the project will create about 17,000 construction jobs and more than 30,000 full-time jobs.

Not very diverse

When the sale came before the Community Development Commission for approval, the sole opposing vote was made by Adela Cepeda. News reports said she cited lack of Latino involvement.

For Negocios Now, Cepeda expanded on her view. A $4 billion lakefront project like this should more broadly reflect the city’s diversity, she said, especially for Latinos who comprise 29% of the city’s population. Others added their voices to hers.

“I am disappointed that this multi-billion-dollar project in Bronzeville had zero Latinos on the development team,” said Alderman Gilbert Villegas, 36th District. “The Latino Caucus is taking a stand on this project, and any other projects that come before the body, that if there are no Latinos as part of the team, don’t count on our support.”

“There are other, more robust inclusive efforts for business diversity other than construction subcontracting,” said Jacqueline Gomez, executive director of the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association. “HACIA would like to see this project have a diverse design team and diversity at the prime contractor level, including owners rep and construction manager.”

Farpoint Development leads GRIT Chicago, and Negocios Now asked for a response from Scott Goodman, principal at Farpoint. 

In an email, he wrote: “There is no construction activity at Bronzeville Lakefront at this time, and won’t be for at least a year. No contracting companies are involved at all today. The project is still in the early planning stages. Regarding diversity, once we get underway, we have committed to 30% MBE (minority-owned business enterprise) and 10% WBE (woman-owned business enterprise) participation. Additionally, we have the stated goal of 65% minority participation. Latino contractors will of course be included once the construction phase commences.”

20-year goal

News reports say the first phase of the project, about $600 million, is expected to start later this year. It would create the ARC Innovation Center medical research complex, including retail space and a community center, and more than 300 units of senior citizen housing with more retail and cafe space, a rooftop deck, and a solar panel installation.

The $3 billion second phase is expected to begin as early as 2023, and the entire project is expected to take 20 years.


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