The plan, the first for Downtown in 45 years, attempts to planfor up to 40 million sf of new office space, 7 million sf of retailspace and 40,000 new multifamily units expected to be added to themarket during the next 20 years. "This is no little plan," saysdepartment of planning and development commissioner Alicia Berg."This is a plan for urban greatness."

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Greater North Michigan Avenue Association board member LynnOsgood notes her group has seen its share of the Downtown officemarket shrivel from 14% to 10%, losing 500,000 sf while othersubmarkets grew. U.S. Equities Realty reports North MichiganAvenue's 8.8% vacancy rate is the best Downtown, but thesubmarket's 13.8 million sf surpasses only River North (9.6 millionsf) and the emerging South Loop (1.9 million sf).

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Meanwhile, the West Loop has grown to 41.2 million sf, becomingthe largest submarket.

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"The primary issue is access," concedes Osgood. While the Loopand West Loop possess 63% of Downtown's jobs, they generate 83% ofMetra's train rides, she reports. On the other hand, North MichiganAvenue claims 27% of the market's jobs, but accounts for just 10%of Metra ridership.

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"Offices are leaving because they can't get to the Avenue,"Osgood says.

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Some North Siders have a difficult time getting Downtown withouta car, laments 50th Ward Alderman Bernard Stone. "It's great tohave this great transportation system in the Loop, but there arestill vast areas of the city that are underserved," says Stone, whosparred with Chicago Transit Authority and department of planningand development officials. "The middle of the city is still notserved."

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While Stone abstained from voting on the Central Area Plan, 42ndWard Alderman Burton Natarus grudgingly went along with it. "Idon't think we've dealt with the transportation issue at all," saysNatarus, whose ward includes most of Downtown, including NorthMichigan Avenue. "I hope this will be a living document, and not adead one."

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Natarus also is critical of the three-year process used to drawup the Central Area Plan. Although it involved business and civicleaders who praised it, Natarus suggests aldermen were initiallyfrozen out of the process.

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"This is a technocratic organization that put this together," heclaims.

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