Community successful in moving new Red Line station for ‘The 78’
July 5, 2019

Rendering courtesy Related Midwest A new Chicago Transit Authority Red Line entrance will now be on west side of Clark Street to avoid causing problems for Cotton Tail Park. The possibility of the station being located in another building also is under consideration.

By Rick Romano

Community involvement has guided the location of a new Red Line station for The 78 development to be built within the next three years.

The station, once slated for the east side of Clark Street near Cotton Tail Park, now will be built on the west side of Clark at 15th Street.

The station and The 78 will rise on a 62-acre tract bounded by Roosevelt Road, 16th Street, Clark Street, and the Chicago River. Related Midwest is developing them as a mixed-use neighborhood of residential, retail, commercial, and research elements.

Public pressure against the original station site stemmed from concerns about construction tearing up the park as well as anticipated increases in traffic and crime. Those concerns led to a town hall meeting with 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell. In a follow-up statement to constituents, Dowell said she would work to remove Cotton Tail Park from the proposed development, including the City Council-approved $1 billion tax increment financing district.

“I was truly heartened by the residents’ knowledge, passion, and engagement.” Dowell said. “It was a great display of what government can be when working with such amazing residents.”

Dowell said 3rd Ward residents were “delighted” when Related Midwest changed the station plans, moving it to the neighboring 25th Ward. There, recently elected Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez said he has worked to catch up with the station issue and now has proposed a community advisory committee to work with developers on the entire project, including the Red Line station.

“We hosted a public meeting before I took office and asked Related Midwest to provide details,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “A lot of people didn’t know about the project or how it had been changed.”

Community involvement

Sigcho-Lopez said he envisions an eight-member advisory group that would be small enough to address issues and connected enough to represent various ward interests.

“The benefits of the station and the entire 78 will depend on how the developer will be able to show those benefits,” he added. “Housing, employment, and green space are concerns. Residents want to make sure that the project generates development and not displacement.”

Ann Thompson, Related Midwest’s Senior Vice President of architecture and design, said station plans are just beginning with early emphasis on the logistics of moving the infrastructure beneath Clark Street to accommodate the new location.

“Construction typically takes about 24 months to complete after the design phase,” Thompson said, adding that one option is locating the station within an existing building, a choice that she noted could alleviate neighborhood traffic and crime concerns.

Thompson said she welcomes meeting with community representatives.

“Working with the community is really part of our process,” Thompson noted. “We embrace it. It makes our projects better. No one understands the specifics of a community like those who live there.”

Related Midwest also is looking at transportation possibilities beyond the Red Line, Thompson said, noting bus and bike lane options.

The 78 will offer a mixed-use hub of residential, retail, and commercial space that also will feature a major research and innovation center, the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI).

Various local views

Pat McAloon, a local activist and real estate professional who has opposed the Red Line station since the original plan, said he had suggested a trolley as an alternative.

Calling the station “a big mistake,” he said, “It’s not necessary. The trolley can run from The 78 to areas like Chinatown and go to LaSalle Street, Michigan Avenue, the Gold Coast, and the Board of Trade.”

Representatives of two local community groups feel more positive about a new Red Line station for The 78.

Bonnie Sanchez-Carlson, president and executive director of the Near South Planning Board, said, “Even though that development may seem to be close to the Roosevelt stop, the river walk, and to some parts of the development, it is a long walk for some people. And of course train platforms also are long. Also, it’s a long walk to get to the river walk and to some parts of the development. If the station is in a building, that should alleviate any insecurities. If this is a single station and not a part of a transportation hub, and if there is appropriate lighting in the area, that also would be seen as a positive.”

Tina Feldstein, president of the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance, said not only does she welcome the additional Red Line stop but she wants another Green Line stop at 18th Street.

“This has to be embraced,” Feldstein said. “When you go north on the Red Line, there are many more frequent stops. We are being pushed out of our cars because new developments don’t need to provide the same amount of parking. There are different zoning rules.”

Feldstein said additional public transit is a natural extension of a growing population.

“The South Loop and New South Side have exploded in population,” Feldstein said. “We do see some crime around the Cermak and Roosevelt stops, but we can address that. The fact is that we are in an urban environment, and it’s a phenomenal city.”

The big picture

Related Midwest expects Red Line station construction to generate some 15,000 jobs. When complete, The 78 is expected to generate 24,000 jobs.

Though The 78 will not include a previously anticipated Amazon hub, Related Midwest has touted the city’s newest neighborhood as a bridge to surrounding neighborhoods as well as a mixed-use hub of residential, retail, and commercial space that also will feature a major research and innovation center, the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), that will occupy an unspecified amount of land donated by the developer.

The University of Illinois will operate the $1.2 billion DPI facility, with organizational ties to its Chicago, Champaign, and Springfield campuses as well as to the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. The plan includes developing the Illinois Innovation Network, a public-private partnership designed to keep local entrepreneurs in the state.

The DPI website is at https://dpi.uillinois.edu/. For more on Dowell, log on to http://ward03chicago.com/alderman-dowell/. For information on the Near South Planning Board, log on to https://thenspb.org/. For information on the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance, log on to http://dev.pdnachicago.com/about-us/.  For more on Related Midwest, log on to www.relatedmidwest.com. For more on Sigcho-Lopez, log on to www.25thward.org.