Developer pitching West Loop Kennedy cap

12/12/2012 3:27 PM

By Ben Meyerson

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Steve Fifield, head of frequent West Loop developer Fifield Companies, is pitching a new plan to cover a gaping gash through the neighborhood: The Kennedy Expressway.

The easternmost chunk of the West Loop is starved for amenities, Fifield says, and covering the highway with park land would instantly open up what’s been a dense area that promises to get denser.

Chicago’s Central Area Action Plan, passed in 2009, calls for the highway to be capped, though it doesn’t spell out specifics. Early estimates pegged the project as cost-prohibitive, and it never took off.

But Fifield said he’s done some calculations, with the help of architects and construction companies, and he’s come up with a slightly more affordable estimate for capping the Kennedy: Roughly $15 million per block.

He’s not proposing financing the project out of his pocket, but he thinks it could easily be financed with cash from the Canal-Congress TIF, which covers the area. The project could lure enough projects and developments (that would pay into the TIF) that it could essentially pay for itself, and then some.

“As we pursued major tenants over the years, we were told that West Loop doesn’t have anything compelling other than it’s close to a bunch of train stations,” Fifield said. “That’s been sticking in my craw, having done almost 20 buildings now.”

All in all, if they capped from Adams to Randolph, the new park could be as big as eight to 10 acres by the time it’s done, Fifield said.

“To create an 8-acre to a 10-acre park in a major urban area is significant,” Fifield said. “We think this thing could trigger four to five major projects, collectively which would add $20 million to the city.”

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