Near West Side Land Deal Would Enable Fifth Third Arena Expansion

By Brooks M. Deering, The Chicago Times

March 15, 2023

CHICAGO – A land deal involving the former Malcom X College site on the Near West Side would pave the way for 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 outgoing Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot 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.  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.” Lightfoot said in a statement.

RUSH acquired the vacant seven-acre site from the City in 2017 for $17.5 million through a redevelopment agreement to construct a mixed-use medical complex.  Since then, RUSH determined the property is no longer viable for the project per their strategic vision and is instead making it available for sale, which requires City approval.  

According to the proposal, 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 and provide some 180 parking spaces pending City Council zoning approval.

“I’m pleased to see this land finally slated for development.  The Blackhawks’ expansion of the Fifth Third Arena practice facility will make the surrounding neighborhood safer and create more job opportunities for residents.” said Ald. Walter Burnett of the 27th ward. 

The proposed agreement also 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.  

“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.  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.” said RUSH spokesperson Tobin Klinger.

The $50 million Sankofa project will include 60,000 square feet of health care services, wellness programs, childcare, financial services, job training, and entrepreneurial support.