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CHICAGO-Public hearings will be held later this month on the city’s proposed Central Area Plan, which could add as much as 40 million sf of office space Downtown along with up to 7 million sf of retail space and 40,000 multifamily units by 2020. Another key element of the proposal is a multi-level West Loop transportation center below Clinton Street providing bus, subway and commuter rail service.

“In order for Chicago to retain its status as a capital of business and commerce, the City must provide the transportation capacity to meet the demand for future growth,” says transportation commissioner Miguel d’Escoto.

The Downtown work force is predicted to grow 41% to 940,000, putting more pressure on the city’s mass transit system to keep expressways and streets clogged by gridlock.

However, the transportation center would further bolster the West Loop, which already is home of the Ogilvie Transportation Center and Union Station, the two main Metra commuter rail terminals.

While the marketplace will no doubt dictate the numbers, the plan is based on projections that forecast the Downtown’s population hitting 150,000, larger than the current population of any Illinois city other than Rockford. However, the Central Area Plan also aims to push some high-density development to outlying neighborhoods, particularly those along Chicago Transit Authority rail lines.

Also, the proposal includes extending riverwalks and creating a system of parks along the Chicago River.

“This is no little plan,” proclaims planning and development commissioner Alicia Berg. “This is a plan for urban greatness.

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