On October 26, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel cut the ribbon opening a brand-new roadway through the former site of a massive U.S. Steel manufacturing plant. Over the next 40 years, McCaffery Interests is planning to build a massive, sustainably designed mixed-use development known as Lakeside on this 600-acre area in South Chicago.
City and state transportation departments have been planning the South Lake Shore Drive extension to reroute through traffic on U.S. 41 around residential areas since before McCaffery and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill revealed the Lakeside master plan in 2004.
The $64 million, state and city-funded road now connects to 79th Street at Rainbow Beach Park in the north and crosses the Calumet River with Ewing Avenue in the south. It does more than provide a bypass of residential areas to the west. South Lake Shore Drive, which connects to Lake Shore Drive via South Shore Drive and Marquette, gives Lakeside the edge it needs to attract retailers to anchor its first phase, called the Market Common.
During a tour in October, McCaffery Interests project manager Nasutsa Mabwa said that the road was delayed for three years. In 2010, press reports said construction would begin in 2012, but it wasn’t until Mayor Rahm Emanuel came into office in 2011 that the road’s construction got back on track.
South Lake Shore Drive is 1.9 miles long and was built with some sustainable development features. For example, it offers parallel parking atop permeable pavement, is illuminated with LED street lights, and is planted with 600 new trees. It also has wide bike lanes along half its length.
The Lakeside website presents a transit vision of using rapid bus routes and light rail that cut down the travel time from the development to Midway airport and downtown. An electric commuter rail is less than half a mile away. Mabwa said that the images on the website are ideas. “We know we have some weak points and we know we have to bring the rail transit closer,” she said. The Chicago Transit Authority has the option to plan buss routes on South Lakes Shore Drive. All of its existing bus routes serve residential areas located a couple blocks west.
South Lake Shore Drive also opens Park 523 to the public for the first time. The park was built in 2008, just a year after Solo Cup sold some land to Lakeside Development, and five years after 87th Street was connected to meet it and provide access to a proposed Solo factory.