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City Promotes Bundled $1.1B Investment in McCormick Area, Navy Pier

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Well, the mayor made his big city-building announcement as scheduled and it looks like a new South Loop DePaul arena/event center, two hotels, and phase one of Navy Pier's redevelopment will arrive as one $1.1B bundle, reports Greg Hinz for Crain's. The common denominator is the oversight and investment of McPier, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to get more bang for the buck by pursuing both simultaneously. That and momentum imparted by the promise of 10,000+ construction jobs and a tourism boom. No one knows how much tourism will be generated or whether the projects will pay for themselves over time. We do know that a testy discourse will take hold almost immediately, with the Chicago Teacher's Union already questioning Emanuel's common sense in pledging $55M in TIF assistance to the arena component while schools get shuttered. DePaul has agreed to the deal in principal and is targeting completion in time for the 2016-17 Blue Demons season. And then there's the casino wrinkle: a big one, and just as polarizing as the funding sources. The state's General Assembly will have to weigh in one way or another.

A second, smaller hotel has joined the action as well. The 500-room tower will be artfully wedged against the arena, at Indiana facing onto Cermak. This will improve the urbanity of the larger development site, as the jumbo 1,100-room "headquarters hotel" will sprout just to the south opposite The Lex apartment tower.

On the Navy Pier front, the first, $163M phase of landscape architect James Corner's makeover will push ahead. The phase will focus on basic user improvements: a new park at the west end, the bike path flyover, expanded dining and entertainment space, and an improved Children's Museum. Some of the more flighty and carnival-like aspects of Corner's design will be axed for budgetary reasons. Say farewell to the winding boardwalks, underwater viewing areas, and constructed wetlands. "We're creating a more authentic experience," stresses Navy Pier President Marilynn Gardner "... celebrating the fact that it's a pier."
·Emanuel unveils $1.1 billion DePaul arena, Navy Pier plan [Crain's]
·Blue Demons Watch [Curbed Chicago]
·High Line Architect Will Redesign Navy Pier [Curbed Chicago]