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One Central megadevelopment seeks $3.8B transit center deal with State of Illinois

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Well, that’s one way to avoid a TIF

An interior rendering of the transit hub Landmark plans to sell to the State of Illinois.
Image courtesy of Landmark Development Corporation

The developer behind the massive One Central proposal slated for the train tracks west of Soldier Field is hoping to strike a deal with officials in Springfield to have the state pay for—and eventually own—the project’s $3.8 billion transit center.

The plan would see Wisconsin-based Landmark Development Corporation front the cost of infrastructure improvements including a structural deck over the existing rail yard, a landscaped pedestrian bridge crossing Lake Shore Drive, and a new rail hub combining Metra, CTA, Amtrak, and bus service.

When the hub is operational and producing revenue for the state, a portion of the new tax money generated by the hub would be diverted back to Landmark. Once the developer gets its $3.8 billion back over the course of 20 years, the State of Illinois would own the transit center plus its retail and event spaces, sponsorship rights, and a 6,000-stall parking garage.

“The fundamental objective of this proposal to the state is to drive major economic growth through private investment in transit-oriented development unlike anything we’ve seen in this country to date,” said Robert Dunn, president of Landmark Development Company, in a statement.

A conceptual rendering of the One Central project shows ten skyscrapers rising at the 34-acre site. The transit center would be located just west of Soldier Field.
Rendering courtesy of Landmark Development Corporation

The Illinois General Assembly is expected to hold a subject matter hearing on the proposed deal next week in Springfield, said the developer. “If the state acts on the proposal before May 31, 2019, it has the opportunity to recoup up to $1 billion in its equity investment through a federal funding program that will otherwise be eliminated at the end of the year.”

If approved by state legislators, the arrangement would allow the developer to skip asking city officials for tax-increment financing (TIF)—something Dunn promised when he first presented the ambitious, ten-skyscraper proposal in March. By appealing to the state instead of the city for funds, Landmark hopes to avoid stirring up the kind of anti-TIF sentiment highlighted by recent deals for the Lincoln Yards and The 78 developments.

Although One Central won’t need City Hall’s blessing for a TIF deal, it will require city zoning approval and permits. Before any of that can happen, it will need to secure the support of local 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell, who has called on the developer to make changes including scaling back the height and density of One Central’s towers.

If all goes to plan and financing can be secured, Landmark wants to start work on the transit center as early as next year and anticipates a three-year construction timeline. The full $20 billion One Central development could take more than a decade to complete.

Rendering courtesy of Landmark Development Corporation