In fall 2017, then-Gov. Bruce Rauner and then-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a rare joint appearance to announce their vision for a Chicago research technology hub, the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), that would call a new development dubbed The 78 its home.
On Wednesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Illinois was coming through with the long-promised half-billion dollars of state funding for it – an investment that backers say will pay off in spades by attracting tech companies and investment, and by keeping Illinois-educated computer science and engineering students in the state after they graduate.
Pritzker wasn’t always as enthused; as a candidate he’d been wishy-washy at best on whether the state should rally behind his predecessor’s brainchild. Before coming through with the $500 million, Pritkzer wanted Illinois universities to first prove their commitment by raising just as much in private investments.
That target hasn’t yet been met – donors have come through with $230 million thus far, including a $5 million gift from University of Illinois board of trustees chairman Don Edwards and his wife Anne, which was just announced Wednesday. Pritkzer said the state’s guarantee of support will help meet the fundraising goal.
The DPI, and its related university collaborative Illinois Innovation Network, are both amorphous enterprises with various physical hubs. Its headquarters is slated to be on vacant land at the nexus of the South Loop, Bronzeville, Pilsen and Chinatown.
Developer Related Midwest has donated the land for the DPI, and in return already has an anchor tenant for its plans to create Chicago’s 78th neighborhood.
While backers envision transforming a field into a bustling neighborhood, critics are upset that, as with another megadevelopment – Lincoln Yards – the city will subsidize aspects of the project via tax increment financing, or TIF. Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th Ward, also says he’s concerned about the impact The 78 will have on communities, including on traffic, rent prices and property taxes.
Community interest is apparent: Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said 211 people have applied for 17 spots for a city-organized community advisory council that will help to guide Chicago and Related Midwest on development of The 78.
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