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Governor’s office throws cold water on revamped mega-development project

Monday, Jan 25, 2021

* Greg Hinz

Armed with a somewhat revised pitch and what appears to be a growing need for state financing, the developer of the proposed One Central mega-development on air rights west of Soldier Field is offering a more detailed version of his plan at a virtual community meeting sponsored by Ald. Pat Dowell, 3rd, this evening.

The $20 billion proposal surely is far reaching, even as the COVID-19 pandemic raises questions about the desirability of living and working in the central city. Little had been heard about the proposal for the last year and a half. […]

Neither Pritzker, whose administration backed legislation authorizing Build Illinois infrastructure lending for such a program, nor Lightfoot, who would have to approve zoning and other matters, had any immediate comment on the current version of the proposal. […]

Included is a request to build up to 22.3 million square feet of apartments, shopping and a transit center on 31 acres decked over Lake Shore Drive and Metra Electric tracks, all funded in part by $6.5 billion in state financing.

* I reached out for a response from the governor’s office…

With the pandemic’s economic turmoil upending state budgets around the country, it would be a challenge for any state to provide the significant amount this developer is seeking. The state faces tremendous challenges and our efforts will focus on rebuilding in the aftermath of the pandemic, supporting residents hardest hit by the disease and helping small businesses get back on their feet.


The state previously took action that would only permit the developer to seek federal funding; had the state not taken action in the FY20 budget, the developer would have been locked out of significant federal grant dollars. However, the state did not commit any funding to the project.

The developer has not shared a transit study with the state that would demonstrate the need for a transit hub.

City approvals would be required before the state could move forward.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - South Looper - Monday, Jan 25, 21 @ 4:32 pm:

    As a resident who lives in the area of the proposed development, I will say that there is very, very little support for this in the neighborhood. There are several other new developments (in the new “78″) and buildings going up, and there are a good stock of units for sale and rent (don’t have the exact numbers, but trust me, there are plenty). Besides that, there are empty retail/commercial spaces (not juts due to COVID) that struggle to stay occupied, growing traffic and safety concerns; a mega development doesn’t help improve any of this.

  2. - 1st Ward - Monday, Jan 25, 21 @ 4:34 pm:

    $1Bn for Lincoln Yards was so popular during “good times”. This developer thinks $6.5Bn in bad times will be anymore popular?

    Free advice would be to stop excavating your development before the hole is to big to get out of. If this is the route the developer is taking publicly during times like these good luck getting anything through (never mind the money) on a significantly scaled down version of this project past community groups, city council, and the State in future iterations. What a dumb PR move.

  3. - South sider - Monday, Jan 25, 21 @ 4:41 pm:

    Sounds like a great idea to me. The south side needs a long term investment as our neighborhoods lack transportation.

  4. - TNR - Monday, Jan 25, 21 @ 4:52 pm:

    I can’t speak to the merits of the entire project, but some of the elements are worth pursuing. Chief among them is a light rail or driverless bus line connecting McCormick Place, the museum campus, Navy Pier, River Walk, and Michigan Ave hotels. Mayor Daley’s secret “bat cave” road is already there along the IC line — use it. And anything that boosts ridership and development on the horribly underutilized Metra Electric Line is a good thing.

  5. - DuPage Saint - Monday, Jan 25, 21 @ 5:01 pm:

    A place for a casino?

  6. - Perrid - Monday, Jan 25, 21 @ 5:02 pm:

    We have a multi-billion dollar hole in this year’s budget, as well as huge amounts of pension debt, and these guys choose now to up their ask? Read the room, guys. 15% of the state’s annual budget isn’t an easy thing in good times (I get the $6 billion wouldn’t all be paid at once).

  7. - thisjustinagain - Monday, Jan 25, 21 @ 6:03 pm:

    The late Harold Washington would have described this as “hubris”. To actually ask for billions of taxpayer dollars itself is something only businessmen could dream up; to do it during the State’s worst fiscal years makes it even worse. And if the commercial development falls though, guess who’s on the hook for the tab–the taxpayer. We have to stop handing out tax money to every businessperson trying to skim the profits off everything anymore, while leaving taxpayers on the hook for decades.

  8. - Just Me 2 - Monday, Jan 25, 21 @ 8:28 pm:

    It was explained during the hearing there isn’t any actual state money involved. Rather, future local tax revenues that would not have been generated if not but for the development will reimburse the developer for their construction of the publicly owned infrastructure. There isn’t any actual state dollars going to the project.

  9. - Frank talks - Monday, Jan 25, 21 @ 8:35 pm:

    $6.5 billion? Saw this deal on Tik Tok multiple wholesale real estate development loops, set up a wholesale contract then pawn off the deal after securing equity that’s tangible. Good luck

  10. - Tired of the usual smoke and mirrors - Monday, Jan 25, 21 @ 8:41 pm:

    This proposal is absurd. Illinois is broke and the developer wants to put the state on the line for billions more? A political leader needs to step forward and kill this idea before any more time and money is wasted on talking about it,

  11. - South Looper - Tuesday, Jan 26, 21 @ 9:03 am:

    @justme2, that’s not correct. See below from the presentation:
    • State payments range from $200 Million in 2024* to $445 Million in 2043.
    • The State’s total contribution toward acquisition and operation of the Civic Build over 20 years is $6.5 billion funded under the Build
    Illinois infrastructure financing program.

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