• Editorial
  • The 78 is a project we should all get behind

    Developing a major swath of land that has been barren for decades can help knit together city neighborhoods more seamlessly.

    A rendering of the 78

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    For more than 40 years, a vast swath of vacant land south of Roosevelt Road has epitomized the two Chicagos.

    79彩票注册网址The empty 62-acre site where the proposed immense new neighborhood, dubbed the 78, will sit might as well be a giant poster for the city's divide—a not-so-imaginary gulf between the South Side and the glittering wealth on display to the north, where office buildings and expensive condo towers touch the sky.

    The sheer size of the emptiness of the space with the Loop on display off in the distance feels like so much that is out of reach for so many.

    79彩票注册网址So, for several reasons—including economic and social—the news that the University of Illinois-affiliated Discovery Partners Institute will locate there should be welcomed with open arms.

    79彩票注册网址As our Greg Hinz reported Feb. 12, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that he will release $500 million in state capital funds for University of Illinois projects, including the DPI in the 78. The deal clears the way for construction of a 500,000-square-foot building to house the headquarters.

    79彩票注册网址It's the news Related Midwest chief Curt Bailey had been hoping for to jump-start the massive project, in the hopes that it will spur more companies—and people—to build and move in. If the dream is fulfilled, roughly 4 million square feet of office space and 10,000 residential units will sprout between Roosevelt and Chinatown. "It's going to make an enormous difference for us in how we articulate our plan and the attractiveness of being at our site,'' Bailey told Crain's Danny Ecker.

    To be sure, there has been plenty of teeth-gnashing around this and other megaprojects proposed in the city, starting with the $551 million in TIF money on this project alone—dollars earmarked to make the now unusable land usable again.

    And there are questions still being raised from City Council members and Mayor Lori Lightfoot about where the city should focus its development lens in a post-Rahm Emanuel world. Plenty of those in City Hall and elsewhere would like to see more dollars invested in neighborhoods that need them, mainly on the South and West sides rather than those just adjacent to the healthy central district.

    And then there are the questions dogging DPI and about the necessity of the funding of this project in hopes of attracting and keeping our brightest tech talent when so many students in the state face difficulties scraping up tuition dollars just to attend school.

    These are all valid issues that should be discussed and debated as we work on addressing equitable development throughout our city.

    79彩票注册网址But in the case of the 78, it doesn't have to be an either/or situation. In fact, we would argue that developing a major swath of land that has been barren for decades can help connect our city neighborhoods more seamlessly.

    No project is perfect. And we've seen many big plans in the city fail to deliver on promises, especially when you're talking about a project of this scope spanning potentially many years to come.

    But failing to make bold plans would be just as dangerous.

    79彩票注册网址We are at a crucial juncture when it comes to investment in the city.

    Fewer cranes dot our skyline as investors have crimped the flow of dollars into the city. Financing is finding its way to more stable locales. The usual reasons apply—our taxes, pension issues and uncertainty around the reality of new revenue flows from our legal twin sins, weed and casinos.

    Seems like we should be pulling for something that could bring in a more stable revenue stream.

    For sure, the ball is in Bailey's court now to deliver on the promises of the 78. That includes making sure the thousands of construction jobs this project will bring are equitably distributed and truly reflect the face of Chicago. And that from this project comes the right kind of swift investment made in our neighborhoods. In other words, don't screw it up.

    After all—empty space is a terrible thing to waste.

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