CHINATOWN — Dangerous.
Just a few of the words pedestrians use to describe the misaligned intersection at Wentworth Avenue and Cermak Road, a mish-mash of people and cars and stoplights underneath the iconic Chinatown entry gate.
The busy intersection is in line for a major overhaul next year, part of a $62 million city plan to better connect Chinatown to the Loop.
Some say the renovations can’t come soon enough.
"I've seen close calls. I've seen accidents," said Henry Auyeung, an Armour Square resident who frequents Wentworth on his jogs to the South Loop.
The realignment will require the city to buy a parking lot plus three buildings at the busy intersection’s northwest corner: the shuttered Three Happiness Restaurant and Cantonesia restaurants and a building housing a branch of the International Bank of Chicago and a clinic offering massage and acupuncture treatments.
Owners of those properties could not be reached for comment.
Ald. Danny Solis (25th) said the city is using eminent domain powers to buy the buildings and the “city will try to work with them in terms of relocation.”
It's unclear how much of the money will be used to buy and demolish the properties, but Solis said it will come from at least two tax increment financing districts, the 24th and Michigan TIF and River South TIF.
Another major component of the city’s plan is to create a brand new road through the vacant land just northeast of the field house a Ping Tom Memorial Park, an area along the Chicago River that offers a sweeping views of the city’s skyline.
Called the Wells-Wentworth Connector, the road will be built strategically to accommodate a planned development on the 60-some acres of vacant land once owned by former Democratic fundraiser Tony Rezko, who had planned a major residential and retail development there before he was convicted on fraud and bribery charges in 2008.
The land remains vacant but the area surrounding it is poised for dramatic changes, including the addition of the new riverside boat house, a planned state-of-the-art branch of the Chicago Public Library and a helicopter tour facility just down the river.
“Strategically, it’s been good luck for [Chinatown] to be intersected by the Chicago River,” Solis said. “It’s probably one of the most attractive areas in the whole area and that brings economic vitality and can bring in tax revenue for the city.”
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