Aldermanic hopeful, citing Solis connection, says hold off on South Loop project
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One of four candidates vying to replace disgraced Ald. Danny Solis (25th) demanded Monday that the Community Development Commission shelve consideration of a massive South Loop development pushed by Solis because of the burgeoning City Hall corruption scandal.
The commission is scheduled to meet Tuesday to consider authorizing the city to negotiate a redevelopment agreement with Roosevelt/Clark Partners LLC. They also would decide whether to create a new tax-increment financing district that would generate $700 million to bankroll infrastructure improvements needed to unlock the development potential of the long-dormant site.
Alex Acevedo, son of former State Rep. Eddie Acevedo, is vying to replace Solis.
On Monday, Acevedo held a City Hall news conference to demand that the commission call off both votes on the project, known as “the 78,” to give Inspector General Joe Ferguson time to investigate the role Solis may have played in fast-tracking the plan and conduct a “full audit of the zoning and development process citywide.”
“We cannot trust a project this large that was fast-tracked by Alderman Solis,” Acevedo said.
“Alderman Solis put his personal and political interests above the interests of the people at every turn. Did he have plans to get kickbacks from this project? We need answers first. In light of the serious allegations against Alderman Solis putting his political cronies and personal interests above concerns of 25th Ward residents, I am demanding this project be put on hold until a thorough, independent investigation can be conducted.”
A spokesperson for Related Midwest said the developer “fully supports transparency and accountability, particularly with regards to” the proposed TIF. But, the spokesperson noted that the $700 million TIF subsidy would be confined to infrastructure improvements: a new CTA Red Line station; the relocation and enclosure of Metra train tracks; public street improvements at 15th Street and Clark Street; and the partial reconstruction of the Chicago River seawall.
Over the last two years, the developer has participated in “more than 30 community meetings with neighbors, community organizations and small business owners” during a process that has been “inclusive and transparent process from the start,” the spokesperson said.
“As a result, the master plan sets a new precedent for public open space and connectivity to the Chicago River,” Related Midwest said.
“After remaining undeveloped for the last 90 years, the 78 will transform the 62-acre parcel of land into a vibrant, mixed-use community.”
Solis, former chairman of the City Council’s Zoning Committee, was a prime mover behind the project at the southwest corner of Roosevelt and Clark. Then he went underground after the Chicago Sun-Times exposed his extraordinary decision to wear a wire for more than two years to record more than a dozen conversations with former Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke as movers and shakers sought city actions.
The newspaper has since reported on the explosive application for a search warrant that laid out the reasons Solis became an undercover FBI mole.
The affidavit claims Solis received sex acts, Viagra, free weekend use of an Indiana farm once owned by Oprah Winfrey and a steady stream of campaign contributions in exchange for shepherding City Council actions.
The 120-page affidavit shows federal investigators listened in on more than 18,000 conversations on one of Solis’ cellphones over the course of at least a year, while also conducting surveillance of his private meetings and trips to massage parlors.
It also indicates the Solis probe dates back at least as far as May 2014.
Under questioning, Acevedo acknowledged he has no particular information that Solis did anything hinky in promoting the 78, a development so massive it would literally create Chicago’s 78th neighborhood, hence the name.
He’s just assuming that’s the case because of the unfolding City Hall corruption scandal.
“From what we’ve been seeing, there’s a lot of money, a lot of approvals that were fast-tracked by Solis — backroom deals that we’ve been reading about. People need answers,” Acevedo said, demanding a “community-led process” from start to finish.
The project’s 62-acre site, once owned by convicted felon Tony Rezko, was where former Gov. Bruce Rauner dreamed of building an innovation center led by the University of Illinois.
“That’s $700 million that’s going to a private developer…There’s gonna be rental spaces that working-class families are not gonna be able to afford. We need to make sure that, if we’re gonna use that money, that the people are at the table and they approve of this project,” Acevedo said.
Acevedo’s suspicion that Solis may have been wheeling and dealing on the 78 is underscored by a conversation Solis had with power-broker Victor Reyes in August 2015. Reyes called Solis on a phone tapped by the feds. When Solis asked Reyes for a campaign contribution, Reyes asked Solis to send him business.
“The big one you’re talking about is the 63 acres” at Roosevelt and Clark, Solis said.
Reyes countered: “How about anything, Danny? How about anything. Not just the big one. How `bout one f—ing thing.”