CHICAGO — The city’s Community Development Commission endorsed plans Tuesday for a $700 million subsidy for a development between the South Loop and Chinatown along the Chicago River, despite calls from City Council hopefuls to delay in light of the corruption scandal swirling around City Hall.
The commission’s unanimous approval sends plans for new 141-acre Roosevelt/Clark Tax Increment Financing Redevelopment Area (F2018-71) to the City Council’s Finance Committee for consideration, perhaps as soon as next month.
The 15-member mayoral appointed commission also approved the Department of Planning and Development recommendation that Related Midwest be allowed to develop the property.
The City Council already gave the developer approval to rezone the 62 acres along the Chicago River to DX-5, Downtown Mixed Use District in December. The change allows Related to build as many as 10,000 apartments and condominiums as part of the $7 billion project, whose name, The 78, is meant to signify that the massive development will add a new neighborhood to Chicago’s existing 77 community areas.
The new neighborhood will also be home to the Discovery Partners Institute, part of a new University of Illinois research facility that supporters contend will boost Chicago’s economy by super-charging job creation and economic development.
The commission approved slightly altered boundaries for the TIF district at the request of Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), who wanted Cottontail Park removed from the TIF and to move the planned location for a new CTA Red Line station. That station will now be built on the southwest corner of 15th and Clark streets instead of on the southeast corner of 15th and State streets.
Representatives of construction firms hoping to be hired to build the development, which officials estimate will create 10,000 construction jobs, urged the commission to approve the project. Many praised Related Midwest for its commitment to hire minority owned firms.
Others called the development of the long-vacant land a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity set to bring 24,000 new jobs to Chicago.
But two candidates running to replace disgraced Ald. Danny Solis (25th) asked the commissioners to delay the vote. Solis supports the project, as does Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who appoints the members of the commission.
“We have heard plenty from contractors and those who have a stake in the project,” said candidate Byron Sigcho Lopez. “We have heard very little from residents.”
Candidate Alex Acevedo called for a full investigation of whether Solis — whom the Sun-Timesreported traded sex acts, Viagra, free weekend use of an Indiana farm once owned by Oprah Winfrey and a steady stream of campaign contributions for City Council actions — acted corruptly when he fast-tracked the development (O2018-4455).
“We can wait a few more months to make sure this development is ethical and free of scandal,” Acevedo said.
However, Curt Bailey of Related Midwest said the firm has been working on The 78 for 2.5 years and held more than 30 meetings with members of the public.
Department of Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman said the development “is a tremendous opportunity for the entire city.”
As part of a negotiated agreement backed by planning officials and Solis, Related Midwest agreed to set aside 500 units on site as affordable, and pay a $91.3 million fee to the city’s Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund in lieu of adding another 500 on-site units.
City officials will allow the remaining 1,000 units to be built off-site. Half of those units — 500 — must be built in Pilsen or Little Village, according to the agreement. The other half must be built within two miles of the project, officials said.
That requirement will help fuel the creation of affordable housing in the rapidly gentrifying Pilsen and Little Village area, Solis has said.
“This is not a giveaway,” Reifman said. “This is an investment.”
TIF districts capture all growth in the property tax base in a designated area for a set period of time, usually 20 years or more, and divert it into a special fund for projects designed to spur redevelopment and eradicate blight.
Here’s how officials said the $700 million generated by the TIF will be used:
- $364 million for the new CTA station
- $84.5 million to realign the Metra tracks
- $79 million for Clark Street improvements
- $13 million to extend 15th Street
- $101 million for a new river wall
- $95 million for site preparation, legal costs, job training, interest and affordable housing construction.