One Central developer Bob Dunn is pushing back against Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot’s characterization of a “fast-track timeline” for the mega-project, saying he’s only trying to capitalize on sun-setting federal programs and a hot investor market.
Dunn, president of the newly formed Landmark Development, began a push this week for legislators in Springfield to approve a state financing bill for One Central’s proposed transit hub. He said he would like to see a bill as early as this month, and would like to start construction on the transit center by mid-to-late 2020.
In response, Lightfoot told the Sun-Times she has “a lot of questions” about the project and that “we’re not going to ram through anything.”
Dunn said he’s seeking the state action on his public-financing proposal now because there are federal funding programs ending this year that he would like to use.
“We simply wanted to make the state aware of that,” Dunn said Thursday. “In that respect, timing is important.”
Landmark has proposed a massive development to be built above train tracks alongside Lake Shore Drive, just west of Soldier Field. Plans call for as many as a dozen high-rises, a pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive and a massive transit hub linking the CTA, Metra and Amtrak.
The project was unveiled at a public forum in March. Since then, Landmark has made no formal requests of the city, and Dunn said he fully intends to have a robust community engagement process as the project winds through City Hall approval.
“We’re not trying to force anything forward,” Dunn said. “We respect the process. We’re taking things a step at a time.”
Wisconsin-based Landmark is seeking a public-private partnership with the state on One Central’s transit hub. Under the proposal, Landmark would build the $3.8 billion transit center, which renderings suggest could include multiple floors of commercial space. The state would reimburse Landmark with tax revenue and lease income from the transit hub. After 20 years, it would be turned over to the state.
Dunn’s previous major projects include other public-facing developments like stadiums for the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions. He said he is incorporating some best practices from those experiences in his plans for One Central, but added his proposal for the financing of the transit hub is a “very unique approach.”
The state would be “getting the full benefit of the asset without taking the risk on the front end,” Dunn said.
The Illinois General Assembly is holding a hearing on Dunn’s proposal next week. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office told Crain’s his administration is reviewing the proposal.