Enormous South Loop Project Gets Pro Forma Pushback From City

On the surface, real estate development looks like a runaway rocket sled to the moon.  In reality, it’s more like an awkward fifth-grade dance, with a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, and people in uncomfortable shoes sweating through their shirts while praying they don’t fall down in public.

January 2021 diagram of One Central (via City of Chicago)
January 2021 diagram of One Central (via City of Chicago)

Such is the situation at One Central, the nine-skyscrapered mega development proposed to cover up the Metra railyard west of Solider Field.  Landmark Development went public with its latest vision of the $4 billion Phase One of this project back in January. Now the City of Chicago has some thoughts about the plans.  Let’s just say that Landmark is doing a polka, while the city is trying to do a waltz.

For those of you new to this hoedown, here are the basics: The cloakroom is to the left, Sister Alice must be able to wave a yardstick between dance partners, and no street shoes on the gym floor.  We just had it waxed.

  • Size: About 32 acres
  • Maximum residences: 9,500
  • Office space: 9,450,000 square feet
  • Retail space: 1,500,000 square feet
  • Hotel space: 1,500,000 square feet
  • Event space: 350,000 square feet
  • Automobile parking: 3,500 spaces

The city’s Department of Planning and Development has run through the details of the proposal, and there are a few things it’s concerned about.  Quoting:

  • The proposed transit and transportation connections will need to be determined as feasible before the City can comment on the level of density and programming requested.
  • Provide supporting information showing that the FAR ask (16.42) is compatible with the area and the level of density can be supported. 
  • The proposal identifies only two vehicular ingress/egress points to the entire development site (S. Lake Shore Drive & E. McFetridge Drive and S. Lake Shore Drive & E. 18th Drive). Both of these intersections/areas are already congested, particularly during rush hour and special events. How does the proposal to use only these two access points meet emergency access requirements? How does this proposal meet vehicular access requirements for the site? 
  • The existing geometry at the proposed access points (particularly McFetridge Drive) on S. Lake Shore Drive is extraordinarily tight and the “concept” geometries are not satisfactory to determine feasibility. Proposed geometries at these intersections must consider future impacts on capacity. Dimensioned, scale drawings of the proposed changes to the intersections at McFetridge and at 18th, in both plan and profile, are required for CDOT to continue reviewing the proposal. 
  • Any modifications to the intersections with S. Lake Shore Drive will require IDOT review and approval. 
  • Until the transit and roadway infrastructure is determined to be feasible, DPD is not in a position to approve a level of FAR/density characteristic of downtown developments. 
  • Provide evidence of support from SCAL (St. Charles Air Line) owners to allow study/use of ROW. 
  • Provide details that show the community impacts of the proposed CTA elevated train along the SCAL. 

The Department has a number of other concerns.  If you’re the sort of person who enjoys reading this sort of thing, then this is the sort of link you should click to get yourself sorted.

Remember, this kind of paperwork back-and-forth is normal, even for small projects.  For something of this size, it would take months for a good sized middle school worth of kids in detention to write out longhand.  So nobody’s expecting ribbons to be cut any time soon.  Just lean back and enjoy the dance.

Author: Editor

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

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