Ten years after the last non-hospital downtown Chicago helipad was demolished to make way for a skyscraper, the Chicago Plan Commission has unanimously approved the construction of a new heliport in Bridgeport at 2420 South Halsted Street.
Chicago Helicopter Express wants to build the private heliport along the Chicago River, next to the CTA Orange Line Halsted Station. It would have 14 helipads, a terminal building, and a refueling facility. It estimates up to 20 flights a day would take off and land at the new facility.
One of the reasons C.H.E. selected the location is because it intends to fly its choppers largely following the city’s highway network, and out along the Lake Michigan shoreline in order to keep noise over the neighborhoods to a minimum. On its web site, it pledges not to fly over Pilsen or Bridgeport. It also envisions connectivity to the Loop with a water taxi dock.
The last privately-owned helipad in downtown Chicago was the one on the Sun-Times building, which was demolished in 2004 to make way for the Trump International Hotel and Tower (401 North Wabash). A year earlier, former Mayor Richard M. Daley demolished the only public downtown landing facility in a middle-of-the-night bulldozer trashing of Meigs Field (CGX).
Since then, private flights have operated largely out of Chicago Executive Airport in suburban Wheeling (KPWK—formerly known as Palwaukee Airport). A helipad opened on the roof of the new Children’s Memorial Hospital (75IS) in 2012, but because of neighborhood opposition, it operates under severe restrictions and is seldom used.
While this heliport is billed as exclusively for sightseeing flights for tourists, another larger heliport plan is in the works not far away.
The $13 million “Vertiport” would be built on ten acres of land owned by the Illinois Medical District. It is seen as a business heliport that medical choppers can also use. Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has already pledged his support to that project. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, construction could begin as soon as this spring.
It will be interesting to see if any of the Chicago TV stations move their helicopters to either one of the new heliports. Currently, only WGN-TV has the luxury of having its own helipad at its building (IL70). The other TV stations have to park their choppers out in the boonies.