Planners back Blackhawks’ expanded training center and community hub

The $65 million project is expected to be ready by early 2026.

SHARE Planners back Blackhawks’ expanded training center and community hub
A rendering shows a view from the northwest of the Chicago Blackhawks’ plan for an expanded training facility and ice rinks for community use.

A rendering shows a view from the northwest of the Chicago Blackhawks’ plan for an expanded training facility and ice rinks for community use.

Provided

The city’s planning agency Thursday endorsed the Chicago Blackhawks’ $65 million proposal to enlarge its practice arena on the Near West Side, adding rinks and services for the community.

The plan calls for expanding the hockey club’s existing Fifth Third Arena at 1801 W. Jackson Boulevard. A vacant site to the west will get a two-story building.

Approval came during a Chicago Plan Commission session that included other significant actions, including a vote advancing a long-term $448 million plan for three high-rises in West Town.

With the addition, the Hawks’ facility will have four ice rinks compared with the current two. The club will continue to use it for practices, but it also will be available for private leagues and community events, a priority of the late Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz.

“We want to serve as the home of Midwest hockey,” Jaime Faulkner, president of business operations for the Blackhawks, said during the city planning meeting.

She said Wirtz, who died in July, insisted on a design that allows for more community access. “I met regularly with Rocky to update him on the business and I can tell you that this project was always top of the agenda and priority for him. We’re hopeful that we can continue his legacy,” Faulkner said.

Plan commission members unanimously backed a zoning change to allow the project. The commission is a mayoral-appointed body that reviews significant projects. Its recommendations send matters to the City Council for consideration.

Executives said they aim to start construction in January and finish in early 2026, noting that next August’s Democratic convention at the nearby United Center complicates matters. The Fifth Third Arena will be a staging area for some convention services. The Hawks’ games are at the United Center.

The addition, designed by Generator Studio, will be 135,000 square feet. The 11-acre site will contain parking for 332 cars and 62 bicycles.

The new building’s northwest corner is expected to get a food hall appealing to students across the street at Malcolm X College. They currently have few dining options near campus. The building will have a second-floor terrace for outside dining and activities.

The expansion of the Hawks’ arena is on a former Malcolm X site that Rush University Medical Center has owned since 2017. Rush agreed to sell the site to the Hawks for $23.5 million in March.

The deal calls for Rush to set aside $5.9 million of sale proceeds to back Sankofa Wellness Village, a 60,000-square-foot health and community resource center planned at 4301 W. Madison St.

Other items the commission passed include:

  • The West Town plan from Vista Group for residential or commercial high-rises at 370, 400 and 401 N. Morgan St. The first two buildings would be about 478 and 410 feet, or about 43 and 35 stories, according to zoning documents. The final one, at 401 N. Morgan, is subject to further design review. The complex would get up to 1,450 residences, city staff said.
Vista_Group_West_Town.png

A rendering of towers proposed for 370 and 400 N. Morgan St.

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  • Two affordable housing developments on the South Side. One involves a conversion of the former Charles Warrington Earle School at 6121 S. Hermitage Ave. by Gorman & Co. The other is by the Resurrection Project and calls for 98 new apartments at 2134 S. Ashland Ave.
  • A Draper and Kramer proposal for a nine-story, 131-unit mixed income building at 1641 N. Halsted St., the former site of the Royal George Theatre. It was approved despite some residents’ complaints about the project’s size.
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