Lightfoot reads the riot act to One Central developers

Lightfoot accuses Landmark Development of running roughshod over elected officials and neighboring residents and going to Springfield ‘under cover of darkness’ to authorize a $3.8 billion transit hub.

Aerial view of Soldier Field and surrounding area

A developer has proposed decking a stretch of rail tracks just west of Soldier Field to support a string of high-rise buildings. But Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot isn’t happy with how Landmark Development has conducted itself so far.

Sun-Times file photo

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday she essentially read the riot act this week to the Wisconsin developer of One Central, a massive project proposed for just west of Soldier Field.

She’s not happy with the way Landmark Development is running roughshod over elected officials and the neighboring residents they represent.

She doesn’t like the fact that developer Bob Dunn went to Springfield “under cover of darkness” to slip authorization for a $3.8 billion transit hub — a key to the project — into the state capital bill.

That transit hub, built over the rail tracks just west of the football stadium, would serve as the base for a string of up to 10 skyscrapers. But Lightfoot is not at all certain the transit center should be a priority for the city of Chicago, given the city’s other more pressing mass transit needs.

“I don’t like the way that they are conducting themselves. And I made that clear in no uncertain terms,” Lightfoot said of the City Hall meeting Tuesday, where she made an appearance “for about three minutes.”

“I told them … they were being disrespectful to a number of the elected officials whose jurisdiction overlapped with the footprint of this project. I told them they had to engage in a robust community engagement process. And I also told them I wasn’t certain that it would be a city priority to have a transportation hub in that location. We have huge transportation needs all over the city.”

The massive One Central development — seen in an artist’s rendering — that’s proposed just west of Soldier Field would include several high-rise buildings with offices, residences, retail space and a hotel.

The massive One Central development proposed for an area just west of Soldier Field would include several high-rise buildings. They would include offices, residences, retail space and a hotel.

Landmark Development

Landmark Development, better known for stadium projects, issued a statement agreeing with Lightfoot on the “need for a robust public process that is inclusive of stakeholders and residents in the nearby neighborhoods and across the city.”

Dunn planned to participate in a second community meeting on Wednesday, hosted by local Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd).

There, details will be announced for a “public engagement process” that includes a “series of workshops” to solicit community input, the developer said.

“This project is projected to generate over $49 billion in new tax revenue to the City of Chicago that can be used to support other vital city services,” the statement said.

Lightfoot said she is “willing to be persuaded” about the transit center, but only after a process that’s “respectful” to local aldermen and state lawmakers who were “absolutely ignored” in the legislative process.

“I want to make sure that we have a thoughtful analysis of the impacts of this proposed development — not only on transportation, but also on property owners who have invested in property along the eastern edge of the Prairie District, who are gonna be directly impacted by any huge, dense development that goes into that site,” she said.

It’s the second time in a month that Lightfoot has laid down the law to Landmark Development.

On May 2, she said she was not about to “ram through anything” and would “approach these mega-projects in a very different way” than Lincoln Yards and “the 78” by demanding a “thoughtful process that engages the communities most impacted.”

That didn’t stop Dunn from convincing state lawmakers to add enabling legislation to the massive capital development bill approved in the waning hours of the spring session. The legislation allows the state to enter into a partnership with the developer to build the $3.8 billion transit hub.

The developer would front the cost and the state would pay it off over many years, starting when One Central starts producing tax, lease and parking revenues.

The legislation said the state will pay nothing before fiscal 2024 or before the hub is finished. It allows the partnership to seek a federal loan to back the deal. One federal program could provide up to $1 billion in low-interest financing.

On Wednesday, Lightfoot accused Dunn of going around local elected officials “under the cover of darkness” to get a placeholder in the state capital bill that would allow them to qualify for a federal loan program that expires on Dec. 31.

“They got something, but they still have to deal with the city of Chicago. Nothing is gonna happen unless this development goes through the proper process,” Lightfoot said.

Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel campaigned on a promise to extend the Red Line South from its terminus at 95th Street to 130th Street.

Emanuel managed to choose a specific route for the 5.3-mile extension and secure $85 million for engineering and environmental studies. But, he never managed to find the $2.3 billion needed to build the sorely-needed project.

On Wednesday, Lightfoot said the Red Line South extension is one of the mass transit priorities that she ranks higher than One Central.

“We definitely want to make sure that we’re getting resources to extend the Red Line, but also looking at other alternatives to reach those communities,” she said.

Contributing: David Roeder

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