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One Central megadevelopment too tall and too dense, says South Loop alderman

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The massive 34-acre plan needs “numerous revisions”

A rendering showing the One Central transit hub and conceptual high-rise buildings.
Landmark Development/Chicago’s 3rd Ward

The ambitious One Central megadevelopment, envisioned capping the train yard west of Lake Shore Drive and Soldier Field, is facing calls for revisions from the local alderman.

Less than a week after the project’s debut at a South Loop community meeting, 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell outlined a series of concerns and suggestions for Wisconsin-based Landmark Development to address. These were listed in an email Dowell sent to local residents, first reported the Chicago Tribune.

“First and foremost, I agree with the residents’ assessment that the project as presented at the Town Hall meeting as being too dense and the height of the buildings too tall,” wrote Dowell. “This will be a major point of discussion with the Landmark Development team. Significant revisions to building design and project density must be made.”

It’s unclear what sort of reductions the elected official is seeking as Landmark offered no specific height or density figures at its initial presentation. Several of the ten placeholder skyscrapers, however, appeared taller than the nearby 896-foot-tall Nema tower.

Beyond shadows and obstructed views, Dowell brought up other concerns regarding One Central’s potential impact on adjacent residential blocks. These included possible issues with Mark Twain Park serving as the project’s main pedestrian access point and safety concerns associated with the development’s proposed transit center.

Dowell also said she would discuss ways to minimize neighborhood disruptions related to construction and a proposed extension of the CTA Orange into the site. The alderman will push for additional park space above the tracks between McFetridge Drive to Roosevelt Road—an area that is currently outside the scope of the proposed development.

Yet for all of her concerns and objections, the alderman acknowledged the benefits of the enormous undertaking. “One Central is a potential opportunity to develop the underutilized space above the Metra tracks,” Dowell wrote. “The community improvements like the transit hub, the increased retail and park space, and potential space for a neighborhood high school, if done correctly, could be lasting assets for the South Loop. However, numerous revisions and compromises are needed.”

Landmark is expected to incorporate feedback from the alderman into the final 34-acre site plan it will present to the community and later City Hall for approval. Although still light on specific details, the mixed-use project is likely to include a combination of office, retail, residential, and hotel space.

The developer also envisions a landscaped pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive to connect the neighborhood to Chicago’s Soldier Field, Lakefront Trail, and Museum Campus. If approved, the multibillion-dollar One Central project could take up to 15 years to complete, according to Landmark’s Bob Dunn.