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United Center Owners Pitch Retail Complex at Madison & Wood

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It's been 18 years since the the United Center was built. We've been waiting for a catalyzing effect ever since. You can blame relatively poor transit service, the blight of surface lots, and neighborhood household income less than half the city median (according to 2010 figures), but 1.5 million people (many of means) pass to and from the arena every year. C'mon now! After at least a decade of chatter, reports Crain's, United Center ownership is taking matters into their own hands with a proposal for a retail/restaurant complex at Madison and Wood. Planned to spring up on the H Lot, the structure would connect by atrium to the east side of the arena. Totaling 260,000-square-feet, it's also destined to include a team store, event space, and bars. Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz are leading the charge. There's no indication yet that the private venture will seek explicit public funding, though there's the related matter of a desired extension of the property tax cap, set to expire in 2017. That's one way of finagling public contribution with decidedly less negative publicity.

Community desire for a new Pink Line stop at Madison and Paulina could produce mandated developer contributions. The final cocktail of public and private obligations is anyone's guess at this point. Gauging community reaction is more straightforward. 'We live by a sea of parking lots," Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., 27th, tells Crain's. "People who live in the neighborhood would rather have a structure and businesses because it would enhance the whole community." Game day competition from West Loop restaurants and bars is very real, says neighborhood resident and retail broker Greg Kirsch. "You have to make the environment persuasive, because you're basically starting from scratch." Will design meet the challenges? From the single bird's eye rendering before us, it's tough to say. The Metropolitan Planning Council prepared documents on the $75-85M proposal back in 2010, but it wasn't made public until now. The report projected roughly 300 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs would result. Stay tuned for more.
·United Center owners planning retail development next to arena [Crain's]