WEST LOOP — At the request of residents, a Near West Side alderman is now planning to build a public library in the West Loop.
Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) is working with prominent West Loop developer Sterling Bay to put a public library branch in a proposed development on the old Coyne College campus in Fulton Market. Burnett plans to use Neighborhood Opportunity Fund money earmarked for West Loop improvements to help pay for the project, the veteran alderman told DNAinfo Chicago this week.
"We're looking to put a library on the first floor of the building," Burnett said.
The new West Loop public library would be the only one in the neighborhood, Burnett said. The public libraries closest to the West Loop are the Roosevelt branch, 1101 W. Taylor St. in Little Italy, and the Manning branch, 6 S. Hoyne Ave. a few blocks west of the United Center on the Near West Side.
While Neighborhood Opportunity Fund money would help develop the public library, Burnett said he is now working with the city to find money to staff the library long term.
Sterling Bay representatives did not answer questions about the project Thursday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's recently-approved Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus Fund program allows developers to build bigger and taller projects in an expanded downtown area that includes much of the West Loop if they pay into a fund. The new program aims to generate millions to rebuild blighted neighborhoods on the city's West and South sides.
Under the bonus program, 80 percent of contributions will be earmarked for development projects in underserved neighborhoods; 10 percent will be allocated to the restoration of official city landmarks and 10 percent will support local improvements within 2,640 feet of the development site, according to city documents.
Adding a public library or community center with a technology focus is a top priority for West Loop families, said Matt Letourneau, chairman of the Neighbors of West Loop development committee.
"For kids of all ages, having a place to go year round is important, having a place to learn things beyond what they learn in school, a place where they can expend energy when winter comes along," said Letourneau, a Skinner West Local School Council member.
Letourneau said he hopes Burnett will work to install the new library in area that is close to Skinner West and the new Chicago Children's Theatre in the West Loop.
Coyne College confirmed plans to move out of its building in booming Fulton Market earlier this year.
Sterling Bay now owns the old Coyne College site and an adjacent parking lot, and seeks to build a 400,000-square-foot office building in its place.
The old Coyne campus, bound by Peoria, Wayman and Halsted streets and the Metra railroad tracks, is two blocks east of Google's Chicago headquarters in the 1K Fulton building in red-hot Fulton Market. Historically known as the city's meatpacking district, Fulton Market is now home to a slew of trendy restaurants and other high-end new construction projects.
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