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United Center Proposes Retail Development

By Soyoung Kwak in News on Apr 29, 2012 6:00PM

Photo by Glorius
After years of anticipation and deliberation, a plan to bring restaurants and shops steps away from the United Center has finally been unveiled. Jerry Reinsdorf (owner of the Chicago Bulls) and other stakeholders of the United Center have released some details of the future retail development right next to the athletics arena. The initial proposal—which estimates the retail development to cost somewhere around $75 million to $85 million—will include a plan to bring in four restaurants, four bars, an event space, and a team store.

This appears to be a step in the right direction, as businesses will be able to directly contribute economically to the rapidly growing neighborhood, creating an estimated number of 500 new permanent jobs according to Crain's Chicago. The plans to bring in retail shops is not entirely all about bringing in more money—it is partly an effort to help transform the neighborhood into a more "friendly" place for fans and neighborhood folk to hang out and have a good time:

The privately funded development would be another step in the West Side neighborhood's evolution from a gritty area where people venture only for Bulls and Blackhawks games to one where more people want to live and have fun.

“We live by a sea of parking lots,” Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., 27th, says. “People who live in the neighborhood would rather have a structure and businesses because it would enhance the whole community.”

This is definitely welcome news for Bulls fans and the neighborhood, but there are already a couple of major roadblocks before the development can be approved. The first issue is whether or not investors will have to also help fund the CTA Green/Pink line construction of the new Morgan/Lake stop, which is slated to open this summer. The second obstacle is that this plan to bring in retail space near the United Center comes at the same time as proposals to renovate Wrigley Field. The potential tension regarding the development of both the Wrigley Field renovation and the United Center retail expansion involves the issue of using taxpayer money (what else?):

Taxpayer subsidies for another private development owned by millionaires likely would be controversial, as the city and state work to slash their own budgets. The United Center was privately funded and its owners are not believed to be seeking any city or state aid beyond an extension of the tax cap.

While there is huge potential for this proposal to be a success, will it make a huge impact on whether people will want to hang out near the United Center as opposed to spaces near downtown and the West Loop?