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CHICAGO-The redevelopment of the former Ravenswood Hospital into a 7.1-acre mixed-use community could generate $31 million to be used for improvements in an industrial corridor along the Metra tracks. That is the thinking of the city’s department of planning and development as well as 47th Ward Alderman Eugene C. Schulter.

Ravenswood Hospital Medical Center was closed by the Advocate Health Care System in 2002, and sold later that year to a local development group for $14.3 million, according to property records. Three members of the Seay & Thomas, Inc. commercial real estate firm–president David Lehman, director of planning and development Alex Bernhardt and vice president of community, tenant and investor relations Marcia Lehman—have proposed Ravenswood Town Center, which would include multifamily units as well as retail and office space.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time,” Schulter tells the community development commission this week. “Our idea is to use the increment from the redevelopment of the hospital to get to the next level in manufacturing and jobs.”

The community development commission endorsed a redevelopment and use of tax increment financing for an eight-block stretch along Ravenswood Avenue, where all but nine of the 88 buildings are at least 35 years old, with many of them obsolete, along with high vacancy rates. However, the Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce notes the corridor is home to a variety of companies, ranging from web site developers to manufacturers that manage to co-exist with a neighboring historic residential area.

Buildings need to be retrofitted, says Schulter, who has formed an IT task force to explore ideas such as fiber optic links. Almost half of the proposed $31-million TIF budget over its 23-year life would be earmarked for rehabbing buildings and public infrastructure, according to the department of planning and development.

While some buildings on the hospital campus will be preserved, the 153,000-sf main building on Wilson Avenue is not likely to last. “The oldest section of the campus has to come down because it’s timber construction and does not meet the current needs,” Schulter says.

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