SOUTH LOOP — Alongside representatives of McCormick Place and DePaul University Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel broke ground on the long-awaited DePaul basketball arena and Marriott hotel adjoining McCormick Place.
The McCormick Place Event Center, set to be completed in 2017, is projected to employ about 7,400 construction workers and create 2,500 service jobs once it's completed, officials said.
Workers actually started work on the development in July, at least three months later than was originally planned.
Boasting the surge in tourism the city has seen under his watch, Emanuel said the center will create a new "entertainment district" in the South Loop comparable to the area surrounding the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"When I became mayor, the Chicago convention industry slipped to fifth in the country ... We've come a long way, and the city of Chicago is No. 1," Emanuel said. "Nobody 4½ years ago would have envisioned we'd be here today with Chicago reclaiming its leadership in the convention industry, with 7,500 people working to build that future."
Emanuel added that the new project, along with the addition of a new McCormick Place Green Line stop earlier this year, has already led to a host of new businesses and residential developments cropping up around the convention center.
The $164 million cost of the event center, which will also host conventions, Chicago Public Schools graduations and other events, is being split between the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and DePaul University. Construction of the hotel, meanwhile, is being funded in part by $55 million in tax increment financing funds allocated by the City Council last year.
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) who represents large parts of the South Loop and Bronzeville, said the new center would cause benefits to ripple out through the Near South Side.
"This development can only be good for all of the communities [in the 3rd Ward]...Because of the economic investment being made here, a lot of employment opportunities are going to be created people in Bronzeville," Dowell said. "And there's not a lot of vacant land left here in the South Loop, so for private entities that want to open restaurants or stores, they're going to have to look further south."
The Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, president of DePaul, said that the center, on top of "assist[ing] in the renaissance of the famed Motor Row and South Loop neighborhoods," would "bring a whole new meaning to 'home court advantage'" and give DePaul basketball coaches a powerful new recruiting tool.
"We're always proud to grow the university in ways that serve the city's needs," Holtschneider said.
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