A land sale agreement involving the former Malcom X College site on the Near West Side would enable the Chicago Blackhawks to expand its Fifth Third Arena training complex while also generating $5.9 million for the planned Sankofa Wellness Village in West Garfield Park, under a proposal introduced to City Council today by Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot.
The agreement would allow RUSH University Medical Center to sell the former City-owned property at 303 S. Damen Ave. to the Chicago Blackhawks for $23.5 million.
“By acquiring this parcel from RUSH and expanding on the Fifth Third Arena complex, the Blackhawks will activate a large piece of land that has sat vacant for far too long in an area that has seen a high volume of development over the past decade,” Mayor Lightfoot said. “This transaction is a win-win for two West Side neighborhoods: the Near West Side, which will benefit from this land being developed and West Garfield Park, which will benefit from the additional funding that will go to the new Sankofa Wellness Village.”
RUSH acquired the vacant seven-acre site from the City for $17.5 million through a 2017 redevelopment agreement to construct a mixed-use medical complex on the property. Since then, the hospital determined the property is no longer part of its strategic vision and is instead making it available for sale, which requires City approval.
The Blackhawks would purchase the site to expand its adjacent Fifth Third hockey complex. The $65 million, 135,000-square-foot expansion is planned to include two hockey rinks for use by the team and other hockey clubs. The site would also have 180 parking spaces and landscaping, pending City Council zoning approval.
“I’m pleased to see this land finally slated for development,” Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said. “The Blackhawks’ expansion of the Fifth Third Arena practice facility will make the surrounding neighborhood safer and create more job opportunities for residents.”
The proposed agreement includes a provision for any proceeds above RUSH’s acquisition and holding costs to be set aside for the planned Sankofa Wellness Village at 4301 W. Madison St. In addition to the anticipated $5.9 million in sale proceeds, RUSH will contribute $3 million in construction funding for the project, where it plans to offer health care services alongside other tenants.
“RUSH believes the sale of this land is an opportunity that will benefit the people of Chicago’s West Side. If approved by the City, net excess proceeds from the land sale would be reinvested into RUSH-aligned charitable community programs, specifically the Sankofa Wellness Village in West Garfield Park,” RUSH spokesperson Tobin Klinger said. “The Sankofa Wellness Village will be a hub of community health and wellness. It will help make real strides in improving health and reducing the life expectancy gap on the West Side.”
The $50 million Sankofa project, named earlier this year as the recipient of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation’s Chicago Prize, will include 60,000 square feet of health care services, wellness programs, childcare, financial services, job training, and entrepreneurial support. Being coordinated by The Community Builders with multiple West Side organizations, the project applied for City financial assistance last year.
“The Sankofa Wellness Center demonstrates how public private community partnerships can create a healthier West Garfield Park neighborhood. As the developer partner of the Center, The Community Builders deeply appreciates the continued support of the City of Chicago, RUSH University, and all of our community partners to advance this impactful initiative,” said Kemena Brooks, development director for The Community Builders.