When the City of Chicago announced yesterday that the long-awaited Wells-Wentworth Connector would actually be happening, much of the focus of the ensuing coverage and discussion has been around the effects it will have in Chinatown. It’s easy to see why: the first two phases of the project take place entirely within the Archer-Cermak area, and easing transit between the Loop and Chinatown is one of the city’s stated goals. What might be easy to miss, however, is the huge impact the completed project could have on the northwest corner of the South Loop.
Currently, South Wells Street dead-ends at Roosevelt Road, creating large swath of area between Congress and Roosevelt that gets very little traffic. This creates a desolate pocket of the city that, despite being on the river and mere steps from the Loop, has seen little-to-no development during any of the building booms in the last half century.
The Wells-Wentworth Connector project could be the end of that, however. The final phase of the project, and its very namesake, involves punching Wells through Roosevelt and connecting it to Wentworth Ave via a new stretch of street cutting through the massive unused piece of riverfront wilderness just south of Roosevelt. This is intended to make Wells street the preferred artery between the Loop and Chinatown/Cermak, as well as providing a new and safer alternative to the Cermak ramp off of the Dan Ryan. This will change the above mentioned section of Wells from a vestigial appendage to a major thoroughfare, and with increased traffic will come increased values for nearby development.
As highlighted in the map above, hungry developers will have no shortage of options. If entirely undeveloped land is your preference, look no further than huge chunk of green space just south of Harrison right along the river, or on the opposite side of the River City condominiums are two riverfront gravel lots directly across from Roosevelt Collection; or if your appetite is even bigger, consider the massive 62 acre lot once owned by Tony Rezko which will at last be made accessible by the new connector. If replacing parking lots with real developments is your thing, you could take your choice of the narrow lot at Wells and 9th, or the larger one adjacent to River City. And don’t forget thatRoosevelt Collection has multiple retail units fronting Wells that have so far been worthless without any traffic to cater to.
There could be a veritable gold rush as forward-thinking developers start new projects in the area in order to have them ready for tenants when the connector project finishes in late 2015, or perhaps prospectors could swoop in and start buying up land now while it remains inexpensive with the hopes of flipping it once values improve. It’s impossible to say what will happen for sure, but for that corner of the South Loop it probably feels like being in an old western town that’s just about to get a railroad.