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Debate over $20B One Central megaproject near Soldier Field continues

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot had some words for the developer

Landmark Development

One Central, an enormous $20 billion mixed-use high-rise development slated for the railyard just west of Soldier Field, cleared a hurdle with state legislators but the massive project still has many obstacles in its path—including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Last week, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the mayor read “the riot act” to Wisconsin-based Landmark Development for slipping $5.1 billion in funding for the project’s proposed transit center into the state’s new capital spending bill. Proponents of the plan said it was necessary to move quickly ahead of a May 31 deadline to take advantage of an expiring federal program that could provide up to $1 billion in low-interest financing.

“I don’t like the way that they are conducting themselves,” Lightfoot told the newspaper on Wednesday. “And I made that clear in no uncertain terms.” The mayor also questioned the need for a new transit hub at that location when other transportation improvements remain unfunded, like the plan to extend the Red Line south to 130th Street.

Meanwhile, Crain’s reported that four state lawmakers representing the south lakefront came out against the proposal and signed a letter urging Gov. J.B. Pritzker to slow down the process and give constituents a louder voice.

Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce CEO Jack Lavin, whose organization commissioned a study touting the project’s economic benefits, defended the timing of the One Central legislation in a Friday interview with the Sun-Times. The project is still in the middle of a lengthy community engagement process, explained Lavin.

Last week, Alderman Pat Dowell hosted the first of several anticipated community workshops where neighbors could weigh-in on the One Central plan. At the meeting, Landmark’s Bob Dunn said the process would lead to better ideas, but some residents booed when they heard that the event would offer limited opportunities for open discussion, reported Crain’s.

Although the specifics of the One Central design are still being debated, the basic plan calls for a 50-foot-tall structural cap across a 34-acre site just west of Lake Shore Drive between Roosevelt Road and McCormick Place. The “deck” would contain a shopping center, a 6,000-stall parking garage, and a transit hub linking Metra, CTA, and Amtrak trains with a new tram service. The cap could support up to a dozen mixed-use skyscrapers and a landscaped pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive.

Landmark made significant progress in Springfield, but the developer will still need the support of local lawmakers like Lightfoot, Dowell, and the majority of the Chicago City Council before its $20 billion plan becomes a reality.

A rendering of the One Central transit hub and retail shopping center.
Landmark Development