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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Block 37 Update

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the City of Chicago is selling the infamous Block 37 property to Mills Corp., the latest in a string of developers attempting to build on the prominent Loop site, for $12.3 million, about $20 million less than what the city paid for the land two years ago.

According to the article the, "difference amounts to a subsidy that...is justified because of 'extraordinary costs' faced by Mills in accommodating the CTA project [underground station for airport shuttle trains] and in building underground pedways." The subsidy appears to be taking a place of a TIF, the usual method of using future taxes now to aid in construction, though it remains to be seen if a TIF is given anyways.

The most shocking tidbit refers to the possible addition of a casino in the mixed-use project. Both the city and the developer asserted vaguely, "It could [be possible], if it's done correctly" and, "We've agreed to agree there might be a casino on this site," respectively. One source in City Hall said, "it would be 'unseemly' to invite gamblers to a site adjacent to local government offices and the courts." Granted, though I imagine the clientele at a Loop casino would be an upscale lot and may even host a politician or two from next door.

The addition of a casino in the Loop would have long-term ramifications, since complementary uses may flock to the area, in order to take advantage of its presence, changing the character of the area. This happens in areas outside the city but may be more difficult in an area with more limited parking and available land. Regardless, a casino's presence could slowly alter the immediate area, which the Mayor has developed as a Theater District over his tenure. It won't be Vegas in the Loop, but it'll be noticeably different.

All this remains to be seen, of course, but it should be interesting to watch the project unfold.

(Previously on this page.)

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