WEST LOOP — A prominent developer believes an ambitious plan to build a park over the Kennedy Expressway between Adams and Lake streets could attract a host of companies to the West Loop.
He believes Tax Increment Financing dollars could be used to both attract developers to the area as well as actually fund the construction of the $300 million plan.
The funding solution, according to Fifield CEO Steven Fifield, is to offer Tax Increment Finance (TIF) dollars to private corporations, encouraging them to stay in the West Loop. Half of those designated TIF dollars would then go back to the city for use on the “Cap the Kennedy” project.
To fund the project's first phase along Madison and Monroe streets, Fifield proposes using dollars from the Canal Congress TIF in addition to real estate taxes from potential new West Loop developments.
Despite the lack of pledged funds, Fifield said he sees the project kicking off within the next couple years. At a community meeting Tuesday, he referred to the West Loop as “a pressure release valve for employee growth in downtown Chicago.”
He pointed to the Quaker Oats factory at 555 W. Monroe St. and the USG building at 550 W. Adams St., both recent West Loop additions which Fifield said would’ve ended up in the suburbs without TIF subsidies.
In June, there was talk of coupling Cap the Kennedy with the state’s plan to redo the Circle Interchange — a $420 million plan to fix the nearby junction where the Kennedy, Eisenhower and Dan Ryan expressways meet.
But after meeting with the Illinois Department of Transportation, Fifield Executive Director Alan Schachtman said he wasn't sure a collaboration would work out, as construction has already started on the Circle Interchange project.
In addition to the Illinois Department of Transportation, Fifield said he has met with the mayor’s office and Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), whose ward runs through the proposed park space.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Burnett said he thought the proposal would be TIF money well spent.
“If they can spark more development, if they can connect more people to want to move or work down in that area, that’s what it should be used for,” he said, pointing out that the Greektown TIF district in his ward expires in December.
Ultimately, Fifield said, the project could change how residents in the West Loop see each other.
“Real estate values will increase for everyone,” he said. “Right now, people do think of it as this side and that side. Psychologically, people will not see themselves on one end of the Kennedy or the other.”