Developers propose $1 billion to help LaSalle Street, city to sell off 2,000 vacant lots and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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A classic view of the LaSalle Street “canyon,” looking south toward the Chicago Board of Trade building.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be breezy and milder with a mix of clouds and sunshine with a high near 43 degrees. Tonight will be cloudy with a low around 41 degrees. Tomorrow will be misty with some fog with a high near 52 degrees.on goes here.

Top story

Developers propose $1 billion in work to help LaSalle Street

Developers proposed more than $1 billion in renovations to classic downtown buildings along and near LaSalle Street in response to an offer of public subsidies, city officials disclosed.

The redevelopment plans involve seven buildings in the central Loop, and most would convert space from office to residential use. The proposals were replies to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s call last September for ideas that would energize the city’s longtime financial district, with an emphasis on affordable housing.

The document, called “LaSalle Street Reimagined,” asked developers to commit to making at least 30% of new housing in the district affordable under terms of a city ordinance. The LaSalle corridor has gotten attention because of increased vacancies in older buildings whose floor layouts and lack of natural light don’t appeal to today’s companies.

Developers generally kept to the 30% requirement in their proposals, although not all of the projects can be carried out. Buildings at 208 S. LaSalle and 105 W. Adams St. that have gone through foreclosure each got competing proposals from two investment groups.

The most expensive renovation, as outlined in a city summary of responses, would involve a landmark building at 135 S. LaSalle, the former home of Bank of America. Owner AmTrust Realty joined with Riverside Investment & Development to propose turning its office floors into 430 residences at a cost of $258 million. Other possibilities there include a grocery store.

Large conversions to housing also were proposed for buildings at 30 N. LaSalle and 111 W. Monroe St.

In all, the proposals for the seven sites called for more than 2,000 housing units. One plan for 105 W. Adams contained the biggest commitment to diversity in housing, specifying that 75% of its 247 units would be affordable.

David Roeder has more on the proposals here.

More news you need

  1. The hiring process for people who investigate abuse in Illinois prisons is mismanaged, according to a new report from the Office of the Executive Inspector General. The state’s independent prison watchdog says the report raises serious concerns about the investigators’ ability to do their jobs effectively.
  2. South and West side residents are gearing up for more than 2,000 city-owned vacant lots to go on sale next year. Mariah Rush and Michael Loria have more on why the new incarnation of an old program is getting mixed reviews from residents.
  3. Chicago firefighters rescued a woman from Lake Michigan Tuesday after she jumped into the water to save her dog. She declined medical attention and no other injuries were reported, police said.
  4. A Chicago architectural gem has been off-limits to scholars, architecture enthusiasts and lovers of art for several years because of a legal dispute. Bob Chiarito has more on an Old Town condominium known as the Glasner Studio that once served as a party house and a colony for artists.
  5. Families hoping to catch a Southwest Airlines flight after days of cancellations, missing luggage and missed family connections suffered through another wave of scrubbed flights, with another 2,500 pulled from arrival and departure boards Wednesday.
  6. Willie Wilson adviser and former state Sen. Rickey Hendon on Wednesday filed to withdraw his challenge to 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer’s mayoral nominating petitions, according to Wilson campaign officials. The withdrawal comes a day after a heated, three-hour hearing between Hendon and Sawyer’s legal team.
  7. The health of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has worsened due to his age, and doctors are constantly monitoring the frail 95-year-old’s condition, the Vatican said Wednesday. At the end of his Wednesday audience with the public, Pope Francis said Benedict is “very sick” and asked the faithful to pray for him.

A bright one

Rainbow PUSH to boost tech education

Piper Williams slipped on some virtual reality goggles and stole a peek into the next phase of education parity — technology classes in areas including coding and robotics.

Glenn Williams looked on in amazement as Piper, his 7-year-old daughter, twirled around a lecture hall.

“It’s great, keeps them occupied and engaged,” he said.

Piper may have been immersed in a virtual world, but in reality, she and her dad were at the headquarters of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

That’s where, on Tuesday, leaders from the civil rights organization’s educational arm — PUSH for Excellence — announced a plan to emphasize technology education as they unveiled the agenda for an upcoming scholarship celebration.

Piper Williams, 7, tests out virtual reality goggles at Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters on the South Side.

Piper Williams, 7, tests out virtual reality goggles at Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters on the South Side. The organization wants to boost technology education.

Michael Loria/Sun-Times

Helping PUSH tout STEM education was Bernard Key, who for the last two years has taught robotics and other technology classes in the organization’s summer programs — programs the group hopes to eventually offer year-round, and to adults, as well.

Williams, who grew up with Key in the Brainerd neighborhood on the South Side, said Key has always been interested in technology.

“We couldn’t afford go-karts, so he would build them,” Williams said. “That’s been part of his DNA ever since we was kids.”

Key said he wanted to instill that same spirit in students, leading them to better jobs.

He cited fast-food chain White Castle, which announced earlier in the year that it would use robots to cook burgers at some locations.

“This is going to be the difference between them programming that robot or cleaning the bathroom,” Key said.

Michael Loria has more on the effort to boost tech education here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

Are you going out or staying in for New Year’s Eve this year? Tell us why.

Reply to this email (please include your first name and where you live) and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: Did the Southwest Airlines chaos screw up your travel plans this holiday weekend? Tell us how.

Here’s what some of you said…

“We flew on Friday, Miami to Nashville to Midway, no luggage until Saturday afternoon and we had come back look for items!” — Pam Marsch Escobedo

“Supposed to fly out Monday night to Orlando at 8pm. Cancelled at 10:30 a.m. No explanation. Customer service impossible to get ahold of. Girlfriend from San Diego was going to meet us in Chicago, hers for cancelled too. Planned this trip for 7 months.” — Michael Porter

“Got up at 2:30 a.m. to make a 5:40 a.m. flight to Dallas, connect thru Vegas. Four hour delay taking off, got stuck overnight in Vegas, no luggage. Had to buy clothes. Finally got to Dallas, wasted two hours finding my luggage.” — Peter Marotta

“Yep, our flight was bumped four days out.” — Colleen Morrin Carter

“My senior citizen mom was to fly home from Austin to Chicago on Dec. 25, she is currently on a bus today on her way home. Southwest has no flights until Dec. 31. She has cats and dogs waiting for her at home.” — Rosy Medina

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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