Convention Center Expansion Stymied, McPier Turns to Plans B, C, D…


McCormick Place expansion drawing courtesy of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority.

McCormick Place expansion drawing courtesy of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority.

Not all Chicago aldermen are equally communicative with their constituents.  Some send out updates almost daily.  Some are creatures of weekly habit. Some… less so.

So it was with a certain amount of surprise that we received news that Third Ward Alderman Pat Dowell called a public meeting for Tuesday.  This is a ward with a newsletter that hasn’t been updated since just after Thanksgiving, and a web site telling people how to get construction jobs on the long-completed Red Line renovation.

But things are afoot in the Third Ward. Big things.  Big complicated things.

We told you in the past about McPier’s extensive plans to expand the McCormick Place convention center with a new Marriott Marquis hotel, a smaller boutique hotel, and a event center that would double as an arena for DePaul University sports.

In the time since our last report, the whole thing has been tied up with lawyers.  If you’re interested in that sort of minutiae, chances are you already have a Crain’s Chicago Business subscription and are following it there.  As a more pedestrian publication, we keep our eyes out for the larger happenings — Start of construction, and major changes in direction; and that’s what we have happening here.

According to the Chicago Tribune, lawsuits over land have the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (“McPier”) rethinking its plans.

At the heart of it is the Authority’s inability to get its hands on the chunks of land it needs to make the project a reality.  As a quango, McPier can’t secretly buy property and then announce its intentions later, like a commercial developer would.  And that’s the sticky wicket that’s left it looking for options.

According to the very detailed Trib article, the giant Marriott hotel would move to Cermak and Prairie, and the boutique hotel and arena may no longer be next-door neighbors.  The details of how it all works out are very complicated, and not surprisingly, add several million dollars to the cost of the project.

The full information about the revised project should be made public at Tuesday’s meeting at McCormick Place.  If you’d like to attend, it’ll be in room W181 at 6:00pm.  We’ll have a reporter there.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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