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12 Feb 2020

The 78 Megaproject gets Backing from the University of Illinois

The 78 Megaproject gets Backing from the University of Illinois
A conceptual rendering of the University of Illinois’ Discovery Partners Institute building at The 78 - Related Midwest - Chicago Suntimes

The University of Illinois and the developer of the 62-acre site south of downtown known as The 78 have reached a deal for a technology center serving as an anchor for what’s envisioned as a new Chicago neighborhood.

Related Midwest, which controls the site running southwest of Roosevelt and Clark streets, said the U of I’s Discovery Partners Institute will build a research center at The 78. The deal, scheduled to be announced Wednesday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, gives the massive project a booster shot intended to draw other employers and developers to the property.

But it also pushes to the forefront the controversy surrounding tax incentives that support private development. The 78 is in line for up to $1.1 billion in subsidies for public improvements that would support the private investment.

The institute, known as DPI, has signed a letter of intent to build on land Related Midwest will donate, the developer said. Backed by public and private funds, DPI will start construction in the next 12 months, it said.

“With a dynamic Phase 1 plan that includes DPI as its centerpiece, we’re showing how a 21st-century neighborhood, created from the ground up and connected to so many exceptional areas, will bring opportunities to all of Chicago,” Related Midwest President Curt Bailey said. “DPI’s organizational model will drive long-term innovation across critical growth industries and draw corporate tenants, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists — from across Chicago and around the globe — to The 78, where they will find top talent, groundbreaking research, and new technologies that support future expansion.”

The subsidies under the tax increment financing program got City Council authorization last year in the waning days of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration. Lightfoot has promised to increase oversight of the program amid criticism it rewards developers by diverting needed revenue from schools and other public agencies.

The 78 — so-named because Chicago has 77 official neighborhoods and this is touted as a new one — covers 62 acres that are in effect a gap between the South Loop and the Dearborn Park and Central Station regions. Its full development could take decades and will depend on economic cycles, but general plans call for a mix of uses, with about 11 acres of open space. The site has about a half-mile of Chicago River frontage.

The site was among those city officials offered to Amazon during its headquarters search. While Amazon turned down Chicago, the offer demonstrated the ambition developers and city officials have for the long-vacant site, formerly railroad land.

Read more at the Chicago Suntimes

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