Build a West Loop Millennium Park?

A colossal project. Chicago developer Steve Fifield has his visionary eye on re-configuring the layout of the West Loop. How so? By building a deck over five blocks of the Kennedy Expressway and creating a park.

Photo via Crain's Video The scope of the project covers 15 acres and would cost approximately $300 million. To deck just one block on the Expressway has a $60 million price tag, Fifield told Crain's

It's back in the news pipeline. Chicago developer Steve Fifield of Fifield Companies has a lot of real estate bandwidth invested in the West Loop – both residential and commercial – and he wants the City to hear him out about a proposal to re-shape this neighborhood pocket he labeled "somewhat soulless."

"One of the major complaints that tenants have about moving here is the lack of park space, the lack of green area," he told Crain's. His plan would plant a 12-acre park atop the Kennedy Expressway, dressing up the view of office buildings and apartments on the launch boards as an alluring perk. "This would transform the West Loop from a sea of parking lots and high rise buildings to an area that has some real amenities. It will be sort of our Millennium Park West," he said. 

It's not a novel idea; it's been discussed, drawn up, or batted about for decades. And although Fifield and his team have garnered support from community groups they must overcome the $300 million sticker shock to coax Chicago to unzip funds as a public project. Fifield's idea is to build the West Loop Millennium Park in stages, beginning with the block between Madison and Monroe Streets. 

Rendering via Fifield Co. Rendering of Fifield Co.'s Millennium Park West concept. Steve Fifield says the "lack of green" in the West Loop has held up some plans, and lamented it was "too bad we can’t build over the Expressway." "You can," his architect told him.

To cash flow this enormous undertaking, the developer outlined a funding plan using tax increment financing (TIF) or issuing bonds that would generate property tax revenue because the West Loop is a hot destination with real estate values likely to rise. (Oprah may cash out her West Loop Harpo Studios for a gain.) There's push back as a matter of course: Tom Tresser of the non-profit watchdog group CivicLab, told the Gazette Chicago in Sept. that the project was a "monumental waste of time and money ... and using TIF is ridiculous."

Over ten million square feet of additional office space built over the next decade anchors the plan. Fifield has an office, hotel and apartment space tower planned for the corner of Monroe and Des Plains Streets, complementing a project with the potential to bring more businesses to the area. It doesn't sound nearly as crazy as the ravings by Bill Davies on the Old Main Post Office.

"The beauty of building over the Expressway really makes the area west of Halsted Street feel like it’s all connected to the downtown," Fifield says in the Crain's video interview. "Adding this green area with potential development to the west, where you’ve got people living, working and playing all in the same environment ... would be such a great transformation for the city to do that." 

What say the City?

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