What's in store for Michael Reese site?

October 9, 2009 (CHICAGO) It's where the Olympic village was to be built if Chicago got the Games. What's in store for the property now?

Big crowds and big money often stream out of the city of Chicagoland into casinos in northwest Indiana. Mayor Daley says a casino is not in the cards for the near South Side, but others think plans for housing alone are a losing hand.

Deprived of its shot at Olympic glory, Michael Reese Hospital's future is anything but certain. But there's one thing Mayor Daley says he's certain won't be built there.

"No. That's unacceptable. Casinos, I don't know why everyone is going around thinking casinos are the answer to all the problems of society," said Daley.

The Mayor insists mixed income housing will still rise on the site of the now shuttered hospital, but without the Olympics as a catalyst, there's no rush to begin construction. There is, however, a deadline to flip the property.

If the city doesn't sell to a developer in the next five years, taxpayers will have to write a check for $91 million.

BRADLEY: "How confident are you something will get built there in the coming years?"
"I'm very confident. This is a 37-acre site right on the lakefront," said Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, 4th Ward.

Preckwinkle, whose ward includes the near South Side, is among those who say housing alone may not be practical. Instead, she suggests McCormick Place may want to consider expanding south.

"Perhaps we can do something like permanent exhibit space or entertainment district that serves not only the convention center but the city. There are lots of options," said Preckwinkle.

Alderman George Cardenas first floated the casino plan. He says housing alone won't create jobs or generate on-going revenue for the city.

"We thought the location would be perfect to compliment what happens at McCormick Place knowing that community needs economic activity," said Ald. George Cardenas, 12th Ward.

A spokesperson for the agency that runs McCormick Place tells ABC7 the convention center has no plans or need to expand. It's already North America's largest.

There is some clean-up work being done on the Michael Reese site, but no timetable for turnover to private developers.

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