SOUTH LOOP — Mayor Rahm Emanuel revealed details Thursday on grand, big-ticket plans for two of Chicago's premier attractions: Navy Pier and McCormick Place.
Emanuel, marking his second anniversary in office, called the double-dip announcement "Elevate Chicago," and touted the projects as a way to create 10,000 construction jobs and 3,700 permanent positions, as well as boost tourism and hotel-tax revenue.
Included in the plans are a 10,000-seat "events center" at McCormick Place that will play host to DePaul University basketball games, as well as convention events and trade shows, while also serving as a venue for Chicago Public Schools.
"It completes the campus," Emanuel said, referring to the convention-center campus as he made the announcement Thursday at McCormick Place. He said the arena would make the city more competitive for convention business and allow it to attract conventions it previously couldn't.
"There's a huge market called medium and small conventions," Emanuel said, adding that the arena would give McCormick Place a venue to cater to those groups.
DePaul would be considered the "anchor tenant," with about 17 men's basketball games and 10 women's games to be played there a year. DePaul will also get to hold graduation events there.
The arena will also be used for concerts and city events, from Public League basketball games to CPS graduation ceremonies.
Word of the arena, to be completed in time for the 2016-17 basketball season, leaked earlier in the week, ahead of the rest of the plans, which also call for a new 500-room "boutique hotel" at the lakeshore convention center. Also included is a previously announced new "L" stop on the Green Line at Cermak Road and a 1,200-room "headquarter hotel."
A relatively new twist, however, is the "complete renovation" of Navy Pier, already the state's top tourist draw with 9 million visitors last year.
While part of the rehab project is as old as the Emanuel administration, such as plans to expand the Chicago Children's Museum, other aspects are new.
The project will create a new park and entertainment district at the east end of the pier extending into Lake Michigan, while improving other areas. "The one demographic the pier doesn't do well with is young adults," said McCormick Place Chief Executive Officer Jim Reilly. The entertainment district at the east end is intended to attract young adults throughout the year, not just during the warmer months when the pier currently attracts most of its visitors.
The project also features a previously planned $48 million improvement to the roadways around the pier to eliminate traffic bottlenecks and improve bike safety.
According to the Mayor's Press Office, the entire project is expected to cost $1.1 billion, but the city will handle about a tenth of it through tax increment finance district funds. The McCormick Place Exposition Authority and private funding, as in the hotels, will also contribute to the overall project. DePaul will contribute $70 million for construction of the arena, or about half, with the rest coming from the so-called McPier bond fund.
"This TIF will create 10,000 jobs," Emanuel said. "That's exactly what a TIF should do." He said the same TIF had previously contributed $160 million to Chicago Public Schools projects, including the construction of the new building at Jones College Prep.
"McCormick Place's job is to draw business into town," Reilly said, adding that it's a "loss leader" in that regard.
Emanuel, too, emphasized that the projects are an investment meant to enhance the city. He pointed to the $100 million a year the city rakes in from the hotel/motel tax and said he expects that to grow.