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The area below Block 37 was in the mix as a potential site for Elon Musk’s express train to O’Hare.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The ones that got away

Projects and promises we expected to materialize in the 2010s that fizzled out.

There were a lot of projects and promises made by various politicians in the 2010s. Here were the biggest ventures we expected to materialize that ended up fizzling out.

Amazon HQ2

Starting in the fall of 2017, Amazon pitted 20 cities against each other to compete for its coveted “HQ2,” the retail giant’s second headquarters, and for the 50,000 new jobs it promised to bring with it. Despite our best efforts to woo the retail giant to the Second City — and rumored interest from the company in “The 78,” the 62-acre riverfront property between the South Loop and Chinatown — Amazon decided to bring its second campus to the East Coast instead.

Lucas Museum

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This file artist rendering released Sept. 17, 2015, by the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art shows the proposed museum in Chicago.

Lucas Museum of Narrative Art via AP, File

In June 2014, Star Wars creator George Lucas announced he had chosen Chicago to house his Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, and renderings proposed a futuristic white structure overtaking Soldier Field’s south parking lot. A war broke out between Friends of the Parks and the Chicago Park District, with the latter calling the former’s “outrageous” list of demands “nothing short of extortion.” The battle became too contentious for Lucas’ taste, and he decided to park his spaceship elsewhere. We ran an editorial with the headline “Ugly parking lot victorious over Lucas Museum.

Casino

Chicago has been seeking the elusive casino for more than a quarter of a century — and crapping out every time. Daley made his first full-throated casino pitch in 1992, nearly a year after he first softened his earlier opposition. New Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a gambling bill into law over the summer that cleared the way for a Chicago casino, but a consultant ultimately concluded the prescribed tax rate was too “onerous” to attract developers. Changing the tax structure would require General Assembly action, which Lightfoot couldn’t secure before the legislative deadline. Maybe the 2020s will be the decade it finally happens.

Elon Musk high-speed train to O’Hare

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A city official says the tunnels drilled by The Boring Company are lined with Interlocking concrete pieces, as seen in this picture posted on The Boring Company’s website.

The Boring Company

After years of imagining a high-speed rail line that could connect downtown to O’Hare Airport, the city seemed poised to make it a reality when it announced a partnership with billionaire Elon Musk’s The Boring Company to build a “Tesla-in-a-tunnel” that promised to make the trip in just 12 minutes. Mayor Rahm Emanuel expressed every confidence in Musk, who he said “doesn’t like to fail.” But fail he did. Now, the CTA could be forced to repay federal grant money used to retire bonds that bankrolled the construction of the still-empty super-station beneath the Block 37 mixed-use project in the Loop.

Rauner’s turnaround agenda

From his earliest days on the campaign trail, former Gov. Bruce Rauner stressed his belief that the only way for Illinois to break free from its “fiscal status quo” was to grow the economy by making the state more business-friendly. He called for sweeping reforms, including the imposition of term limits for legislators, a freeze on local property taxes, and workers’ compensation cuts. Digging in his heels on these issues spurred a budget showdown that left the state without a spending plan for two years. Rauner’s Turnaround met an about-face when he lost his reelection bid to Democrat J.B. Pritzker in 2018.

This story is a part of a larger series called Decade in Review. For more features that reminisce on the 2010s, click here.

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