Here’s my hot take on One Central development: It’s most likely not going to happen.
Today I will discuss the recent updates about One Central and why I think it won’t break ground.
Landmark Development’s One Central is a highly contested project ever since it was first proposed in 2019. Even as it promises to invest in more transit access, more jobs, and economic opportunities in the South Side, it has garnered more setbacks than progress.
Now let's dig in.
Why is One Central Most Likely Never Going Break Ground - Ever?
Budget Shortfall in Illinois and Chicago Budget
In 2019, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker started the negotiations with Landmark Development for the One Central. But in 2022, his spokeswoman Emily Bittner said that the administration feels that it is a challenge of providing the amount of funding for the development. Remember in our previous video, I said that One Central was seeking $6.5 billion of government subsidies for the Civic Build phase. And right now, this is a project that is not on the list of priorities for the government.
Both the federal government and city government focused their budget on pandemic recovery. For Illinois state budget, the budget includes increased funding for education and human services and $1.8 billion in mostly-temporary tax relief. The tax relief plan expands the state-earned income tax credit from 18 to 20 percent of the federal credit while also expanding the number of households that can claim the credit.
There is also funding for a variety of job training programs, business attraction and retention programs, and $55 million in capital funding to promote economic development throughout the state, including funds to support zero-emission vehicle manufacturing, clean energy, and supply chain manufacturing, and other environmental purposes.
Chicago city government is also suffering a budget crisis, especially when Mayor Lightfoot revealed that the stay-at-home shutdown had blown a two-year, $2 billion hole in the city’s budget. And in the 2022 Budget Forecast, the government projected a $733 million budget gap for the fiscal year 2022. The city budget focuses on improving city services from the Chicago Police Department, affordable housing, and mental health services to a pilot program for a universal basic income.
The priorities of the state and city governments lie in addressing the lasting and continuing impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt on both the health and financial well-being of residents and businesses across Chicagoland.
2. Hard Rock Casino Is Ready To Let Go of One Central Partnership
In a community meeting for casino proposals last April 19, Hard Hard Rock Chairman Jim Allen emphasized that their casino is not contingent on One Central development.
HR Chicago, LLC (“Hard Rock”) proposes a $1.74 billion casino project on a portion of the ONE Central site. This proposal includes a 3,500-seat Hard Rock Live venue; a Hard Rock Music and Entertainment experience; a 500-room hotel tower; a “Rock” spa; rooftop space; outdoor green space; several restaurants, cafes, and a food hall; and six bars and lounges.
Even if Hard Rock's team included Landmark Development’s Bob Dunn (as a major investor), they insisted that the casino can move forward, regardless of the status of One Central’s development.
Bob Dunn said, “Hard Rock is separately financed, separately designed, will be separately built, owned, etc., from any eventual development of One Central.
And the team even said that they would work with the city to determine if Hard Rock would pursue a separate planned development—a city zoning designation for large developments that guides the size and scope of buildings—for the casino, outside the One Central development.
According to Hard Rock, the temporary casino can be up and running by the second quarter of 2023, while its permanent location would open in the third quarter of 2025.
3. NIMBY vibe from South Loop residents
And the main reason why One Central is probably never going to happen anytime soon? The community doesn’t want it. Regardless of the proposal’s contents, there is a heavy Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) vibe from South Loop residents.
One South Loop resident named Marge Halper said, “We don’t know what One Central is, but we do know that statewide, we don’t want to spend $6.5 billion to subsidize something you said we’ll own but didn’t ask for.”
Even transport support advocates in the South Loop are not convinced by One Central and the transit improvement benefits they boast of. P.S. Sriraj, director of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Urban Transportation Center and the Metropolitan Transportation Support Initiative, says, “If you look at the transit connectivity, the South Side of Chicago is very well served by public transportation. You have the Green Line, you have the Red Line, you have the Metra lines that are going to different parts of the South Side.”
Concerned citizens further state that the South Loop doesn’t need a transit hub in the One Central site. One Central’s transit feasibility study states One Central would see 9,280 daily Metra boardings, but the South Loop Concerned Coalition (SLCC) found Metra averaged only 23 people each day at the 18th Street Metra stop prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Other complaints about One Central are:
the project’s proposed building elevations are much too high, particularly as compared to the community’s existing building heights;
the proposed density is four times more than allowed by City law;
And the proposed seven-story concrete wall will cut off that part of the South Loop from the rest of the neighborhood.
ONE Central’s goals as a transit hub are lofty. But unfortunately, it falls under heavy scrutiny, more so now than ever. State and city budgets are strapped to other priorities for social services and pandemic recovery. Companies who partner with One Central like Hard Rock Casino and Chicago Bears have either been exploring other developments or have left One Central entirely. Finally, there is too much pushback from the community - most residents don’t see the need for it to break ground.
Landmark Development has not even completed a zoning application that provides comprehensive detail about the project. So it’s not going to start construction anytime soon.