Sterling Bay taps Illinois Medical District CEO for life sciences division

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Sterling Bay is one of the local developers hoping to change that with plans to build more dedicated lab space buildings in the city—including at its planned Lincoln Yards megaproject on the North Side—and it’s now counting on McKinney to cultivate relationships with scientific, academic, corporate and other life sciences stakeholders that will help fuel its growth.

“I firmly believe that life sciences is a key to forming Chicago into what I like to call the ‘third coast,’ ” said McKinney, a South Shore native and Beverly resident who served in the Chicago Department of Public Health as deputy commissioner of the bureau of public health preparedness and emergency response before taking the reins at IMD in 2015.

As Sterling Bay eyes a new life sciences project along the North Branch of the Chicago River and potentially others on the West Coast, McKinney said her main task will be “identifying and recruiting life sciences companies to take up residence in our developments.”

McKinney, 47, said she’ll lean on her experience helping lure businesses to the IMD—with a special focus on West Side economic development—in her new role. Among other deals, she helped recruit Superior Ambulance Company in 2018 to open a new office and garage for its vehicles in the district to serve its four hospitals but also train and hire residents from nearby communities. The company has hired more than 250 local residents since moving to the IMD, according to McKinney.

“I will be able to align Sterling Bay’s life sciences efforts with what we’re seeing (from the sector) in cities across the country, and that is bringing economic development to their cities but also creating opportunities for (people) who may or may not have had access to these types of opportunities in the past,” she said.

McKinney’s IMD tenure coincided with some significant new real estate projects in the district, including the redevelopment of the former Cook County Hospital into a dual-brand hotel and a new office and retail project underway at 1926 W. Harrison St.

The district’s most ambitious real estate project, however, has moved at a glacial pace amid financing difficulties. A $300 million plan for a mixed-use development dubbed the Gateway at the corner of Ogden and Damen avenues has been marred by years of delays under the leadership of veteran Chicago developer Jack Higgins. Higgins’ venture built only a pair of single-story retail buildings before walking away from the project last year, though a new entity recently won permits in August to begin work on a six-story hotel and 11-story residential building there.

“Dr. McKinney’s new role with Sterling Bay’s life sciences division solidifies our commitment to advancing the growth of this critical sector across Chicago and in new markets around the country,” Sterling Bay CEO Andy Gloor said in a statement. “Under her guidance and with the impressive power of her scientific and leadership experience, Sterling Bay…



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