Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Tribune Editorial Board Questions the Need For One Central's Proposed Transit Hub

A few weeks back, we posted about a community town hall meeting for the proposed massive One Central development.  We recently read the Tribune editorial board's current take on the proposal:

Dunn’s $20 billion vision: build a 31-acre platform over train tracks just west of Soldier Field, then construct on the platform a mix of hotels, residential units, retail, dining and entertainment, along with a new transit hub. The project’s skyscrapers would tower as high as 89 stories. If you’ve ever walked from Michigan Avenue to Soldier Field for a game or concert, you’ve likely walked over the bed of tracks Dunn wants to build over.

Dunn’s project had been quiet for some time, but his team held a public meeting in January to update Chicagoans on the proposal. From the start, people who live near the site have worried about the project’s massive scope, along with the height of the buildings, and the traffic that the project would add to an already logjammed downtown.

For us, it’s that transit hub that prompts a double-take, and has us worried about the burden it would put on state taxpayers.

Dunn’s company, Landmark Development, wants Springfield to approve $6.5 billion in state financing over 20 years for the construction and operation of the transit hub and other structures slated for the project’s first phase. The hub, price-tagged at $3.8 billion, would become a new nexus for Metra, Amtrak and CTA trains, along with a new “CHI-Line” bus or tram route that would run from McCormick Place to Navy Pier.

When Dunn explained the project to the Tribune Editorial Board in spring 2019, we were intrigued. “Chicago has never shied away from big, bold endeavors. They keep the city growing and thriving,” we said at the time.

However, Landmark still hasn’t been able to justify the need for the transit hub. In the post-pandemic world, the work-from-home segment of the labor force will be sizable. Mass transit ridership is sure to take a long-term hit, forcing CTA and Metra to rethink train frequencies and service. The CTA and Metra have never given any indication they back the idea. If Landmark had some rock-solid rationale to devote a massive chunk of money from Illinois’ cash-starved coffers for a new South Loop transit hub, they would have come out with it. They haven’t because it isn’t there.

And about those coffers. Illinois is in no shape to plunk down $6.5 billion for One Central’s phase one. “With the pandemic’s economic turmoil upending state budgets around the country, it would be a challenge for any state to provide the significant amount this developer is seeking,” Pritzker spokeswoman Emily Bittner told the Tribune in a statement before One Central’s public meeting.

If this one happens we would be SHOCKED!

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