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jcchii Jun 25, 2006 2:16 PM

^^I walk under the tracks every day and I haven't seen any sign of it

BVictor1 Jun 25, 2006 3:49 PM

** Removed for copyright infringement **

-Dylan Leblanc

BVictor1 Jun 25, 2006 3:59 PM

June 23, 2006

Chicago developers reach for the sky
Construction boom adds 40 buildings of 50 stories or more since 2000

(AP) - In this city where the skyscraper was born, it is being reborn.

Luxury condominium towers and office buildings that climb 600 feet or more - some way more - into the sky are sprouting up all over downtown. Along the Chicago River, the Trump International Hotel and Tower is inching its way up to what will be its full 92-story height. Nearby, plans are in the works for a 124-story skyscraper called the Fordham Spire that would knock the Sears Tower from its perch as the tallest building in the United States and take its place among the tallest buildings on the planet.

In all, no fewer than 40 buildings at least 50 stories high have been built since 2000, are under construction or are planned. Together, they add up to a surge in high-rise construction in the city that, if not unprecedented, hasn't been seen here since the 1960s and 1970s when the Sears Tower, John Hancock Center and other buildings helped give the city one of the most distinctive skylines in the world.

And while there is a flurry of high-rise construction in the United States, particularly in New York, Miami and Las Vegas, the tallest of the tall are going up in Chicago. Of the three tallest buildings under construction, two are here, according to Emporis, an independent research group that catalogues high rise construction around the world.

"Out my window there are two, three, four, five new high-rises under construction or just completed in the last year and a half, and they've just announced another 80-story building," said Jim Fenters, who has lived on the 51st floor of a 54-story building overlooking Grant Park since 1979. "It's just remarkable what's happened here."

So widespread is high-rise construction that projects that would be headline news in other cities go all but unnoticed.

"The Waterview Tower, that project is 1,047 feet, taller than the Chrysler Building," Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune's Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic said of one building under construction. "In any other city there would be endless conversations, (but) here a 1,000-foot tower is, 'Ho-hum, how are the Cubs doing?"'

A mix of several factors have triggered this construction frenzy.

Start at City Hall. Chris Carley, the developer of the Fordham Spire, remembers the days not so long ago, maybe seven years, when city officials would greet proposals for high-rises with talk about knocking off 10 or more floors.

"The comment from the planning department was, 'Well, we don't want to have these huge, tall buildings like New York,"' he said.

Contrast that with the more recent experience of Chicago architect David Haymes, during discussions with the city about a planned condominium tower.

"I remember at least two (planning and development) staff members saying, 'Can't you make it taller? We really would like it taller.' We were taken aback."

Other developers report similar experiences.

"If you give them something that's architecturally significant ... they'll let you build what you need to build," said Donald Trump Jr., who is overseeing construction of his father's skyscraper.

Carley and Kamin say Chicago's change in attitude might have something to do with Sam Assefa, a former San Francisco planner who came to the planning department a few years ago espousing the virtues of tall, thin towers like those popping up in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Neither the mayor nor Assefa would comment for this article, but Carley said Mayor Richard M. Daley clearly took Assefa's message to heart.

"He's definitely encouraging and espousing taller buildings," said Carley, whose Fordham Spire would rise 2,000 feet, or more than a third of a mile, into the air.

Known nationally for beautification efforts like planting flowers, shuttering a small downtown airport to open a park, encouraging rooftop gardens and building "green" schools, the mayor might seem an unlikely champion of high-rises.

But Daley's planning commissioner, Lori Healey, says it all makes sense. In exchange for allowing developers to go higher where eyepopping views - and huge price tags - are, the city gets buildings that are a lot smaller at their base than the ones developers would have to build if they weren't allowed to push high into the sky.

"You have less space taken up at the ground levels (and) there is a lot more green space," Healey said.

The city also gets something in short supply in downtowns with shorter, wider buildings: light.

"The shadow cast by the profile of a tall, thin building is much less than a short, fat one," Healey said.

That's not to say there aren't concerns - particularly since some of these new buildings will figuratively and literally cast their shadows on some of the city's most recognizable landmarks.

"There is a concern (that) while on balance this is a good trend, very tall buildings don't belong everywhere," said Kamin, offering Trump's skyscraper as an example.

"The jury's out on whether (the building) will overwhelm landmarks like the Wrigley Building and overwhelm the river," he said. "People are concerned."

But nobody would be talking about the pros and cons of skyscrapers if there weren't a market. In Chicago there is.

It seems that more than a century after the world's first skyscraper, or "cloudbuster" as they were called in 1885 when the nine-story Home Insurance Building went up, Chicagoans remain enamored with tall buildings.

"Chicagoans live and breathe high-rises both within the profession and within the city," said David Scott, chairman of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, which, not surprisingly, is based in Chicago.

One reason for the latest surge in construction is that Chicago, like many major cities, is becoming an increasingly popular place to live among people with a lot of money - precisely the population that fled cities for suburbs decades ago.

Downtown, tall condominium towers - some with units selling for millions of dollars - are popping up at a pace that those who track development have never seen before.

"Nearly 6,000 (rental and condominium units ) are going to be delivered this year," said Gail Lissner, vice president at Appraisal Research Counselors, a Chicago real estate consulting firm. "It's bigger than anything I can remember, and I've been in business since 1975."

The city's geography also plays a role. Unlike some other cities that don't have much space to build, Chicago has huge chunks of land. Perhaps more importantly, the land sits near Lake Michigan, the Chicago River or parks - all places where future developers can't build view-blocking skyscrapers of their own.

"We offer unobstructed views, basically forever, of the park and the lake," said Bob O'Neill, president of the Grant Park Conservancy.

Not only that, but thanks to the internationally acclaimed Millennium Park and other projects, longtime residents like Fenders say the view is getting even better.

From his window, Fenders can see Millennium Park's bandshell designed by architect Frank Gehry. He can also see where Renzo Piano's new wing at the Art Institute of Chicago is being built and the spot where there are plans to build the Santiago Calatrava-designed Fordham Spire.

"These are three of the most famous architects in the world, and their (projects) are right here," he said.

CMD UW Jun 25, 2006 5:56 PM


Originally Posted by Frankie
From this weeks crain's

Residents bring later Loop hours
By Darci Smith

Condo dwellers and tourists heading to Millennium Park are helping prompt changes that make downtown a little friendlier after 5.
Business and cultural centers are trying to meet the demands of the Loop's expanding residential population by extending hours, says Ty Tabing, executive director of the Chicago Loop Alliance. "Percentage-wise, the Loop is the fastest-growing residential neighborhood in the city," he says.

This is what you want to hear. Not only is the Loop growing it is thee 'fastest' growing community in Chicago. Wicked.

sentinel Jun 25, 2006 11:35 PM

The cool thing about the picture that was attached to the article above is that it's very, very recent, from perhaps withing the past month or two, primiarly because in the background you can just make out 340 on the park under construction.
Quite an amazing skyline!!!!

Wheelingman04 Jun 28, 2006 3:06 AM

^ I love that photo.

spyguy Jun 29, 2006 3:50 PM

City Hall's spreading the green
June 29, 2006
BY GARY WISBY Environment Reporter

Chicago is already tops for green rooftops, leading North America in the latest survey.

But City Hall, which started it all with a 20,300-square-foot green roof five years ago, wants more company downtown.

So under a plan that won City Council approval Wednesday, the city will offer matching funds up to $100,000 to put green roofs on downtown buildings.

The pilot program will draw $500,000 from the Central Loop Tax Increment Financing District. At $10 per square foot, that's enough to fund five to 10 projects, said Michael Berkshire of the city's Department of Planning and Development.

He calls the new project the GRIF TIF -- Green Roof Improvement Fund Tax Increment Financing.

"If it's a success, we'd like to target other TIF areas," Berkshire said. Prime candidates would be areas troubled by flooding or that are big contributors to the "urban heat island" effect -- conditions eased by roof plantings.

Buildings also benefit because green roofs cool the floor below in summer and help hold heat in winter. City Hall's greenery saves $5,000 a year on utility bills, Berkshire said.

Inspiration from Germany

Green roofs also extend the life of existing roofs by protecting their waterproofing membranes from ultraviolet rays and temperature change.

Where practical, green roofs are planted on all new and rehabbed city buildings. "Most people associate them with new construction," said Planning and Development spokeswoman Connie Buscemi. "That's a myth this program will help dispel."

Smaller buildings are getting the roofs, too. Last year, the city awarded $5,000 grants to 20 owners of homes or small businesses from a pool of 120 who applied.

A survey by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities said Chicago led North American cities in 2005 with 295,000 square feet of completed green roofs. But Berkshire said 2.5 million square feet are in various stages of development on more than 200 public and private structures.

That's not counting the 1,067,220-square-foot Millennium Park or the new 239,580-square-foot park at Soldier Field. Both are considered green roofs because they are built over parking garages.

Chicago's elevated greenery is one of Mayor Daley's darlings. He was wowed by green roofs in Hamburg, Germany, during a 1998 tour, and City Hall had its green roof by the end of 2001. It cost $2.5 million, funded by a settlement with ComEd.

Now that aldermen have OK'd the new program, Berkshire will start talking it up with business groups and building owners. Applications will be accepted online, with a Sept. 1 deadline.

Green connections lead to garden on garage

Sara and Joe Shacter have one of the newest and nicest green roofs in town, and it didn't cost them a dime.

The 20-by-22-foot garden was planted on their flat-topped garage on North Leavitt two weeks ago by Animal Planet's "Backyard Habitat" show.

Plantings were already in bloom so the roof could be shot for an episode that will air in the fall.

The Shacters built the home and moved into it in February with their 2-year-old twins, Jason and Benji.

It was chosen for the TV show because the couple had thought about adding a roof garden themselves, and because of Joe's green connections.

He works for the Environmental Law & Policy Center and is a former president of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, "so we're pretty environmentally conscious these days," his wife said.

Joe added, "We have an astounding green roof, and way before we thought we would."

The garden was designed by Bernie Jacobs of Jacobs Ryan Associates and installed by Intrinsic Perennial Gardens, a Hebron, Ill., firm that specializes in green roofs.

Snow, animals no problem

The company has built about 70 green roofs in the Chicago area, 60 of them in the city, said Kurt Horvath of Intrinsic.

For each job, he assesses whether the roof is strong enough to hold the additional weight of dirt and plants -- the range is 15 to 40 pounds per square foot.

What about snow? Chicago roofs are built to withstand it, "so there's no reason to remove it," Horvath said. "You leave it just like you would on your [ground-level] garden."

Animals are no problem, either, he said. "I've never seen any type of squirrel or rodent damage."

At the Shacter residence, Intrinsic installed a $15,000 garden, using 21 plant varieties including asters, chrysanthemums, delphiniums and three types of sedum, the tough, colorful common denominator of green roofs.

"We're watering it for the next two weeks, but after that it will be self-sustaining," Sara said. "I had no idea it would be so pretty."

Joe said the garden complements the home's landscaping, which incorporates several native elements.

"We're infatuated with our roof," he said. "We've got neighbors across the alley yelling at us, 'Thank you for the view!'"

Dan in Chicago Jun 29, 2006 6:27 PM


Originally Posted by alex1
your analogy doesn't quite work in chicago's instance since Millennium Park wasn't carved out of an existing park but built on top of a railroad track. I doubt you'd find anyone pre-2000 that would have termed that exact location part of Grant Park.

you can call it an extension of Grant Park if you'd like but to me it's Millennium Park. Grant Park is its stodgey neighbor.

It's not my analogy, it's the official Chicago Park District boundaries. You're forgetting that not all of Millennium Park was railroad yards: there was a substantial area of parkland along Michigan Avenue, where the original peristyle was, that was always considered part of Grant Park. And I don't see what's stodgy about green space... are we living in an age when any park that isn't paved from end to end with "attractions" is dated?

Chicago2020 Jul 11, 2006 3:24 AM

No step taken to replace crosswalk

Jon Hilkevitch
Published July 10, 2006

New bridges exclusively for pedestrians and bicyclists are gaining a welcome foothold in Chicago, improving access and safety and adding beauty to the landscape from Millennium Park to the south lakefront.

The next installment to the series of spans recently built in the Grant Park area will be the new pedestrian bridge at Monroe Street, connecting Millennium Park to the new modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Plans for the gently sloping steel-and-glass Art Institute bridge, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, will be presented at a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Daley Bicentennial Plaza, 337 E. Randolph St.

But there is no progress to report on Queen's Landing, where Chicago officials removed the traffic signal and pedestrian crosswalk to Buckingham Fountain a year ago--without any public notice. The crosswalk near Monroe Harbor was installed in 1988 after a 13-year-old girl was struck and killed by a car.

Civic leaders who for the last year have unsuccessfully prodded the city to bring back the crosswalk are now beginning to focus efforts on forming a public-private partnership.

Their goal on this first anniversary of the crosswalk's closing is to raise some of the estimated $15 million needed to build a bridge or an underpass at Queen's Landing, named in honor of Queen Elizabeth II's 1959 visit to Chicago.

The civic leaders point to the city's ongoing strategy to sell corporate naming rights to the Chicago Skyway; to the approximately $15 million in private funding donated by Art Institute sponsors for the Monroe Street bridge; and to the Millennium Park bridge paid for in part by British Petroleum.

"This is an easy project to attract private dollars because with millions of people in cars on Lake Shore Drive, on foot and on bikes, it would be the most visible corporate sponsorship in the park area," said Bob O'Neill, president of the Grant Park Advisory Council.

"With the obvious connection to Queen Elizabeth, I'm going to start by calling [British entrepreneur] Richard Branson at the Virgin Group and British Airways," O'Neill said.

Chicago traffic authorities initially said it was necessary to remove the Queen's Landing crosswalk to more efficiently move the 139,000 vehicles a day that travel on Lake Shore Drive through the busy Grant Park area. One pedestrian pressing the "walk" button there, changing a green light to red for 34 seconds, inconvenienced a hundred or more vehicles, they said.

Officials also promised to come up with a solution--a bridge or a tunnel--for pedestrians seeking access from Buckingham Fountain across the eight lanes of Lake Shore Drive to the water's edge, to Navy Pier and the Museum Campus.

Yet a Chicago Department of Transportation feasibility study, started before the crosswalk, is still in the conceptual phase.

"Our engineers are taking a look at the available space and concerns related to construction, sight lines and access points with respect to building either a pedestrian underpass or a bridge," said CDOT spokesman Brian Steele. "But we have not drilled down to the details yet."

Steele said there is "no real timeline" for moving the project forward, although the city intends to apply for federal funds later this year to eventually build something.

"Any large-scale project like this is always going to be a lengthy process," Steele said.

But other projects are under way.

The city has secured about $6 million in federal funding to add a pedestrian bridge over South Lake Shore Drive at 41st Street and to design replacement bridges at 35th and 43rd Streets on the Drive, Steele said. The bridges, whose winning designs were selected from a CDOT-sponsored international competition, will be built over the next several years, he said.

In addition, plans are set to build a pedestrian and bicycle underpass beneath Solidarity Drive near the Adler Planetarium on the Museum Campus. All $11 million needed for the project has been acquired, Steele said.

The work follows the 2003 completion of the 11th Street Columbus Drive pedestrian-bike bridge and underpass and the 18th Street pedestrian-bike bridge.

But the slow pace of progress at Queen's Landing is leaving some Chicago business and civic leaders dissatisfied. "Of all the bridges being discussed, this is the most important one, linking Grant Park and the lakefront," said Louis D'Angelo, chairman of the Chicago Loop Alliance. "It needs to be put at a higher priority."

In light of the already long list of corporate sponsorships in Millennium and Grant Parks, such creative financing at Queen's Landing could place the project on a fast track, said D'Angelo, a developer who is president of Metropolitan Properties of Chicago.

Five million people visit Buckingham Fountain each year, according to the Chicago Park District, which owns the land on both sides of Lake Shore Drive. Millennium Park, home to the BP Bridge that snakes across Columbus Drive, is visited by about 3 million people, according to Millennium Park officials.

The Park District plans to work with other city agencies to develop a workable solution at Queen's Landing that is aesthetically compatible with the historic nature of the park and improves safety for park users, said Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner.

A year after the crosswalk closed, people still occasionally risk their lives bolting across Lake Shore Drive, according to the Chicago Traffic Management Authority.

Snow fencing hastily erected last year to discourage pedestrians, bicyclists and joggers from darting across the roadway has been replaced by concrete bollards linked by decorative chains. But remnants of the striped pedestrian crosswalk are still visible in the pavement.

"I think the bollards are ugly and perfectly stupid," said Kathy Schubert, a member of Forever Free and Clear, one of the groups pushing for a pedestrian crossing that is separated from the traffic. "It's easier to climb over the bollards than to scale the snow fence. The situation is an accident waiting to happen."

Pedestrian crossings on Lake Shore Drive near Buckingham Fountain still exist at Monroe, Jackson and Balbo Drives and at 11th Street. But the distances to those intersections are longer than the average city block and, once there, pedestrians must contend with turning vehicles cutting through the crosswalks.

City officials are still defending their decision to close the crosswalk.Daily traffic counts have increased substantially, up 13 percent north of 18th Street, said Kevin Smith, spokesman for the Traffic Management Authority. That's due in part to Lake Shore Drive being an alternate to the Dan Ryan Expressway, which is under construction, he said.

"Generally, pedestrians have made the adjustment [to the closed crosswalk pretty well and it seems traffic is running better through the spot," Smith said. "We think the pedestrians have found there are alternate locations to cross safely."

Chi_Coruscant Jul 11, 2006 11:51 AM

Millennium-Art Institute bridge gets public airing

July 11, 2006

BY KEVIN NANCE Architecture Critic

The Art Institute of Chicago's proposed $25 million bridge would soar above Monroe Street between Michigan and Columbus in the summer of 2009, connecting Millennium Park with the museum's new Modern Wing.

It would be 620 feet long and 15 feet wide. It would be 23 feet above grade as it begins to cross over Monroe, and 30 feet high at the point of its junction with the museum.

And unlike the park's BP bridge, it would be open year-round, thanks to a heating system that would melt any ice or snow that accumulates on its aluminum floor.

Art Institute and Millennium Park officials doled out these and other tidbits about the bridge, which was first announced last year, at a Monday night meeting of the Grant Park Conservancy and the Grant Park Advisory Council. The event was one of a series of meetings with community groups at which the museum hopes to build support for the bridge before seeking final city approval for the project later this summer.

"We're excited about the opportunity to connect these two great cultural institutions in Chicago," said Meredith Mack, the Art Institute's vice president of operations.

Response mostly positive

If Monday's meeting is any indication, the museum appeared to have little to worry about. Reaction to the bridge, which would start at the southwestern edge of the Pritzker Pavilion's Great Lawn and end up on the Modern Wing's third-floor sculpture terrace, was mostly positive.

The Grant Park Conservancy's Bob O'Neill, for example, hailed the plan for the views it would offer pedestrians of the city, the lakefront and the Michigan Avenue streetwall. "You can't get those views from anywhere else," he said. "I think it'll be incredibly well-used and a huge success."

Millennium Park's Ed Uhlir agreed, noting that the bridge will offer a spectacular and currently unavailable view of the park's Lurie Garden, which slopes down toward Monroe.

A minority opinion came from downtown resident Greg Reid, who lives in the nearby Harbor Point Condominiums, which overlooks the park. Reid said he was concerned about the bridge's potential to obstruct views of and from the lake, and about the broader issue of overcrowding and noise in the vicinity of the park.

"A lot of people do live here in the neighborhood," he said. "I don't want to turn Grant Park into Navy Pier, where people come down to party all the time."

headcase Jul 11, 2006 12:38 PM


Originally Posted by Chi_Coruscant
Millennium-Art Institute bridge gets public airing

A minority opinion came from downtown resident Greg Reid, who lives in the nearby Harbor Point Condominiums, which overlooks the park. Reid said he was concerned about the bridge's potential to obstruct views of and from the lake, and about the broader issue of overcrowding and noise in the vicinity of the park.

"A lot of people do live here in the neighborhood," he said. "I don't want to turn Grant Park into Navy Pier, where people come down to party all the time."

You could hear the "but" in this guy's speach long before he said it.

Bridge to Art Museum = Ferris Wheel?

spyguy Jul 11, 2006 1:57 PM

You just know that people are going to party on the bridge.

Seriously though, Grant Park is for all people to enjoy and have fun. The residents who live nearby cannot pretend that it is their park to fence off like a backyard and dictate the park's future.

Chicago3rd Jul 11, 2006 1:59 PM

It is a public park. Sorry folks who moved into the area around Grant Park. Perhaps you should have noted that vast open space and looked into it. It is called a public park. Not your back yard. So move out to Schaumburg.

Harbor Point...isn't that located north and east of the proposed bridge? So how in the hell will it block his view of the lake? AT least he didn't use the tired "aren't you afraid it will attract terrorist" speil we keep hearing at highrise meetings.

Chicago3rd Jul 11, 2006 2:02 PM

[QUOTE=BVictor1]** Removed for copyright infringement **

-Dylan Leblanc[QUOTE]

The city of Chicago was paying millions a year to keep it open. The last agreement (would have kept it open 25 more years) had the State of Illinois picking up the $4 million a year annual tab. So the tax payers would have paid $12 million by now if we would have kept this airport open. Daley has now saved the state of Illinois $4 million so far and it will ultimately save the state of Illionios over $100 Million......Thank you KING RICHARD!!!!:tup:

headcase Jul 11, 2006 3:39 PM


Originally Posted by Chicago3rd
Harbor Point...isn't that located north and east of the proposed bridge? So how in the hell will it block his view of the lake? AT least he didn't use the tired "aren't you afraid it will attract terrorist" speil we keep hearing at highrise meetings.

He was actually complaning about two things, 1) how it would look when he looked down on it, and 2) how it would look from his sailboat........

spyguy Jul 11, 2006 10:22 PM

^He actually said that? How are these people allowed to speak? Shouldn't they feel stupid themselves by saying such things in front of their neighbors?

Chi_Coruscant Jul 12, 2006 12:41 AM

City proposes $550M LaSalle Street revival
July 11, 2006
By Greg Hinz

Chicago's financial district suffers from 'deterioration' and 'obsolescence'

(Crain’s) — City Hall Tuesday unveiled a half-billion-dollar plan to subsidize the rebirth of a huge swath of the Loop financial district, saying that Chicago’s traditional financial heart suffers from “deterioration” and “obsolescence.”
After months of rumors, the Daley Administration formally proposed to designate a 40-block section centering on LaSalle Street south of the river as a tax increment financing (TIF) district.

The city did not immediately spell out who would get money or in what amounts. But under an overview proposal submitted to the Community Development Commission, at least $550 million in property-tax receipts would be diverted from the Board of Education and other local governments over the next 23 years and instead be used to clear land, subsidize new building and redevelopment, and pay for public projects in the area, possibly a proposed Monroe Street express busway.

The proposed new TIF includes most of the Loop that is not already in the Central Loop TIF district to the north and east. Included are such landmark properties as the Board of Trade Building, City Hall, the Inland Steel Building and the Rookery, as well as the Riverbend site at Lake and the river that has been eyed for new growth.

Though many buildings in the area have historic charm, a lot of them “need help,” said Lori Healey, the commissioner of the city Department of Planning and Development. Only by modernizing mechanical and other systems will such buildings be able to compete with newer structures to the west and in the suburbs, she said, and building owners may not be able to afford to do that without city assistance.

United Airlines reportedly has considered at least two buildings in the proposed district for its new corporate headquarters. United is considering moving downtown, out of state, or staying in suburban Elk Grove Township.
The biggest budget item in the plan proposed Tuesday was $200 million for public works and related improvements. Ms. Healy said that could include a wide range of projects but said the city is particularly eyeing transit projects to fight increased downtown congestion.

Another $200 million is allotted for rehabilitation of existing buildings, with $50 million for property assembly.

The projects would be funded by growth of property-tax receipts within the TIF area. The city argues that much of that growth would not occur if not for the subsidies, but some civic groups have argued that it is not wise policy to strip schools of even inflationary growth in tax receipts.

Ms. Healey said the city “continues to review” what to do with the Central Loop TIF district, which is due to expire after next year.

That district originally was proposed as a means to help East Loop landlords modernize their buildings, but more than $100 million ended up being diverted to pay construction cost of Millenium Park.

The Community Development Commission took the plan under review, but is expected to approve it later this year.

LA21st Jul 12, 2006 12:59 AM

I wouldnt say this area needs a "revival". This one of the most vibrant workday populations on earth.

Frankie Jul 12, 2006 8:30 AM

Another view on the Lasalle St. TIF district from yesterday's Sun Times

City outlines La Salle Street TIF district

July 11, 2006
BY DAVID ROEDER Business Reporter Advertisement

City officials Tuesday issued the first details, including a map, of a new downtown taxing district designed to subsidize commercial growth and public improvements, with a focus on La Salle Street.

“I see this as the traditional commercial heart of the city,’’ planning Commissioner Lori Healey said of the proposed tax-increment financing district. If approved, the so-called TIF district would finance a range of projects and help owners of aging office buildings refurbish to attract more companies, she said.

But leaders of key downtown business groups, representing those who might benefit from TIF funding, said they oppose the proposal because the city, not their members, would decide how to spend the proceeds. In a rare break with City Hall, the groups said the TIF should be governed by a committee representing the businesses and property owners.

“We want self-governance for the stakeholders here,’’ said Bill Bornhoff, vice president and director of the Chicago Development Council, which represents downtown builders.

With a similar reaction was Michael Cornicelli, director of government affairs for the Buildings Owners and Managers Association of Chicago. “We need the planning for this to be from the ground up, not the top down,” he said. “When it comes to TIFs, the city has always done things from the top down.”

The amount of money at stake could be huge, judging from the city’s record with downtown TIFs. The La Salle-based TIF could generate $550 million over its statutory 23-year life, city officials estimated.

Healey said she saw no need for a business committee with veto power over spending plans. “We have it in place already relatively unofficially,” she said, explaining that business lobbyists are constantly consulted on planning issues.

The proposed district covers blocks primarily between Clark and Canal, Randolph south to Van Buren. A section of Wacker Drive with new office towers was kept out of the district, as were eastern parts of the Loop that already have their own TIF coverage.

La Salle is considered the heart because it has old office buildings that have lost tenants to Wacker Drive. The district includes both sides of La Salle from just north of Lake to Van Buren.

Sears Tower is in the district, as is City Hall itself and a section of Randolph near Wacker where developer John Buck harbors plans for a new skyscraper.

His plan could be eligible for TIF assistance,
but Healey said the city would emphasize help for renovations of “older buildings that face challenges in the marketplace.”

Funding also could be set aside to create a park or even a school to serve downtown’s growing population, she said.

TIFs do not raise taxes, but redirect them away from schools and other local governments. A baseline of tax receipts is established at the start, and every increase each year is diverted to an account that can fund private development or public works.

Mayor Daley has described TIFs as his only economic development tool. The Central Loop TIF, parts of which date from 1984, generated $87.7 million for subsidies in 2004, the last year for which results have been published. Its yearly windfall was used to bail out Millennium Park.

Since taking office in 1989, Daley has increased the number of TIFs from 11 to more than 140. Critics have said TIFs are overused, help development that would have occurred anyway, cheat schools and give City Hall a money pot with little accountability.

Plans for what would be called the La Salle Central TIF were introduced Tuesday to the Community Development Commission, which set a public hearing Sept. 12. The commission will then forward its recommendation on the TIF to the City Council, which has the final call.

Healey said the effectiveness of TIFs is proven, and she expects no modifications from the public input.

Bornhoff said the city is acting as if it has all the answers, but he said his criticism was directed at the bureaucrats and not Daley. “We want to execute something that’s meaningful in the spirit of what he’s trying to do,” Bornhoff said.
If this new TIF district will help Buck get his new tower off the ground then its worth it IMO

Chicago3rd Jul 12, 2006 4:42 PM

I am not in favor of this TIF. Isn't business suppose to be free enterprise? Shouldn't the land lords have been updating the buildings all along? Why give these property owners welfare? Let them deal with the market. Eventually someone will come along and buy the buildings that the land lords have let go to waste and turn them into something like they are planning with 208 S. LaSalle.

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