More than 120 years after U.S. Steel built a mill there, and 20 years after that mill closed forever, South Chicago is finally getting its lakefront back.
Construction crews on Tuesday began relocating U.S. Route 41 through the former steel mill, a prerequisite to building the first phase of Chicago Lakeside, a mixed-use development along 79th Street. It will include 1,000 rental units and a shopping center. The old slag heaps, which have been covered with Peoria River bottomland that was shipped up the Illinois River by barge, will become a park.
"This roadway project is an essential part of the development plan that will create a new mixed-use neighborhood on the former steel mill site on the banks of Lake Michigan," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who visited the site as crews began their work.
As the project’s developers point out, it’s the last piece of undeveloped land on the Chicago lakefront, and it’s 10 miles from the Loop -- the same distance as Evanston. This is the last step in making the lakefront as Daniel Burnham envisioned it: forever free and clear.
The $19 million project will consist of building a new road to relocate Route 41 by connecting it at the north end of the U.S. Steel site at 79th Street and South Shore Drive to the south end at 87th Street and Avenue O.
“Extending Lake Shore Drive further south and transforming the former U.S. Steel site will provide an economic boost to the southeast side of Chicago,” Gov. Pat Quinn said. “Together, the State of Illinois and the federal government will invest $19 million to complete a project that creates jobs and improves the quality of life from 79th to 92nd streets and beyond.”
The surrounding neighborhood has been depressed since the steel crisis of the 1980s. Officials at the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce hope the new residents venture down to their neighborhood’s Mexican and African restaurants and groceries.
According to a press release from the mayor’s office.
The new two-mile section of new roadway will include:
New street lighting
Irrigated landscaped medians and upgraded landscaping at the entrance of Rainbow Park
Permeable parking lanes to provide innovative storm water management
New sidewalk, driveways, curbs and gutters, sewers, signage and pavement markings
CTA turnaround at the north end of the site
Four new traffic signals and three signal modernizations
Nearly 600 new trees to be planted
U.S. 41 is a 1,900-mile highway that runs from Copper Harbor, Mich., to Miami, Fla.