Commission OKs South Loop project, with new TIF, despite Solis role in scandal

SHARE Commission OKs South Loop project, with new TIF, despite Solis role in scandal

The massive proposed development being marketed as “The 78" would be built with millions of dollars of Chicago taxpayers financing on 62 vacant acres at Roosevelt Road and Clark Street in the South Loop. | Leslie Adkins / Sun-Times

Ignoring the burgeoning City Hall corruption scandal starring FBI mole Danny Solis (25th), the Community Development Commission on Tuesday signed off on a $7 billion South Loop development.

The commission also created a tax-increment financing district to bankroll a host of infrastructure improvements needed to access the long-dormant site and unlock its development potential. The Roosevelt/Clark TIF is expected to generate at least $700 million for that work; it also will cover financing and job training.

The projects include: extending Wells Street to Wentworth Avenue; moving and enclosing Metra tracks running along Clark Street 300 feet to the west; extending 15th Street into the site to connect with Wells; a new Taylor Street bridge; and a new Red Line stop at 15th and State streets.

The station was moved at the behest of adjacent Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), who opposed putting it in the middle of, what she called an “established, entirely residential area.” Dowell testified in favor of the project at Tuesday’s CDC meeting.

Solis had good reason to refer to the “78” as “the big enchilada” before going underground after the Chicago Sun-Times exposed his decision to spend more than two years wearing a wire to help federal investigators build their corruption case against Ald. Edward Burke (14th).

The 62-acre project will include up to 10,000 residential units; 1,500 units will be affordable, but only 500 of those will be built on-site.

The remaining affordable units will be built off-site, with 500 in Pilsen or Little Village, and 500 within two miles of the project.

Related Midwest would have been required to build another 500 affordable units on site, but instead contributed $91.3 million to the city’s Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund.

The project will produce 15,000 construction jobs, 24,000 permanent jobs and raise the bar on diversity hiring through a four-pronged community benefits program outlined by Related Midwest.

But the heavy hand Solis wielded before he went underground was the elephant in the room.

“In the midst of widespread real estate and political corruption by Ald. Solis of the 25th Ward, who may very likely be soon to resign from his post entirely due to recently uncovered corruption throughout City Hall, under no circumstances should this TIF designation be rushed through,” said Ruth Pachulia, a staffer at the Pilsen Alliance.

Pachulia argued that neither the TIF designation nor the development itself has been sufficiently vetted by the community.

“This subsidy could cost Chicago Public Schools over $300 million alone. And all Chicagoans will have to pay more in taxes to make up for it,” Pachulia said.

“We need funding for our schools, for our youth employment, for mental health clinics — not for creating luxury mini-cities under whom corrupt aldermen and luxury developers collude.”

Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman countered that the new TIF would not divert a single dollar from a Chicago Public School system that already “levies to the max” of a property tax cap.

He also noted that the 78 will host the University of Illinois’ $1.2 billion research and innovation hub.

“This site generates nominal taxes today. And it will never generate taxes or benefit the public without those infrastructure investments,” Reifman said.

“This is not a giveaway. This is an investment. … There is no denying the positive outcomes for the city. And it’s the project developer and the TIF district that bear the risk of the public improvement cost if that new private sector investment doesn’t occur. We get the CTA station. They take the risk.”

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