Ground to be broken for new $50 million CTA Green Line station near McCormick Place

SHARE Ground to be broken for new $50 million CTA Green Line station near McCormick Place
SHARE Ground to be broken for new $50 million CTA Green Line station near McCormick Place

New station house Architect’s rendering of CTA’s new $50 million Green Line station near McCormick Place.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to enliven the area around McCormick Place will get a boost Thursday when ground is broken for a $50 million CTA Green Line station that will serve the convention center, new hotels and a $173 million DePaul basketball arena.

The new station near the intersection of Cermak and State will be the first to serve McCormick Place in nearly 40 years, when a station at that same location was demolished.

It will plug a two-mile gap in CTA service that now forces Near South Side Green Line riders to choose between existing stations at Roosevelt and 35th.

The new station will also serve the new Motor Row entertainment district that Emanuel is trying to create around McCormick Place anchored by new hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and a 10,000-seat DePaul basketball arena.

The arena that would double as an “event center” for mid-sized shows too large for Navy Pier and too small for McCormick Place would be located on a site bounded by Cermak, Prairie, 21st and Indiana.

On the southeast corner will be a boutique hotel with 500 rooms. That’s in addition to the 1,200-room “headquarters hotel” previously announced.

The Green Line station would have direct transfer connections to westbound buses and three entrance points—one on each side of Cermak and one at 23rd Street.

The multiple entrances will serve different sets of riders: neighborhood residents; Motor Row patrons and conventioneers walking two blocks over from McCormick Place and DePaul basketball fans going to and from games at the new stadium.

The main station building will be built on the north side of Cermak, complet with bike racks, elevators, enclosed boarding platforms and state-of-the-art security.

Construction is expected to be completed in late 2014. It will be bankrolled by tax-incrementing-financing (TIF) and by revenue from Emanuel’s $2-a-day parking tax, cleverly billed as a “congestion fee” even though it was confined neither to rush periods nor congested downtown and River North.

Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein first touted the benefits of the Cermak station during a 2011 sales pitch for the mayor’s parking tax that, he said, would also finance express bus lanes linking commuter rail stations to Michigan Ave. and Navy Pier.

Klein called both projects missing links in the downtown transportation system.

“Cermak has three interesting aspects. The existing population needs a stop. There’s open land for transit-oriented development. And it can also serve McCormick Place,” Klein said then.

“The bus rapid transit system will provide a faster connection through the Central Business District that’s absolutely needed and change the way the bus feels to people in Chicago. People don’t dislike the bus. They just want the fastest trip possible. They get frustrated behind massive amounts of auto traffic. It’s amazing how much faster they can move with dedicated lanes and traffic signal prioritization.”

The $55 million subsidy for the DePaul basketball arena alone has become a let-`em-eat-cake rallying cry for teachers, parents, aldermen and community leaders upset about school closings and budget cuts. They have questioned Emanuel’s priorities.

DePaul will contribute $70 million to the new arena and control revenues from the stadium’s concessions, 22 suites and 300 club seats, but only during DePaul games.

The nation’s largest Catholic university will also have the exclusive right to to sell naming rights to the new arena to a corporate sponsor or a wealthy private donor.

The remaining $70 million in construction costs will come from the McPier bond fund, which has resources left over from a 2010 restructuring. McPier bonds are backed by local hotel and motel taxes.

Another $33 million in land costs will be paid for by the surrounding tax-increment-financing district. Some of the land is already in McPier’s control. Other parcels may require use of the city’s sweeping eminent domain powers.

Under the agreement with DePaul, the city would be free to use the arena 24 times a year – either for athletic events involving Chicago Public Schools, Chicago City Colleges or other public events.

The agreement calls for DePaul to pay an annual rent of $25,000 a game for men’s basketball and $15,000 a game for women’s. DePaul will also get first right of refusal on available dates, but only after McPier blocks off convention and assembly dates it needs and presents the schedule to the university on April 1 of each year.

McPier officials pegged annual operating costs at $3.7 million and estimated that the rent and non-logo-related concessions from DePaul games – which go to McPier – would cover one-third of that.

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