CHICAGO-In an attempt to reduce irritating power outages that have plagued the utility in previous summers, Commonwealth Edison plans to build a $54-million substation with five transformers at the northwest corner of Madison Street and Des Plaines Avenue. When completed in late 2004, the project promises to provide electricity to the Loop, West Loop and Near West Side, ComEd officials say.

The city’s community development commission Tuesday recommended the sale of a 40,000-sf site to the utility for $2.025 million, a $375,000 discount to its appraised value to make up for environmental remediation costs. The sale and project are expected to get city council approval assuming no alternative development proposals are received.

However, the deal may increase the value of a site across Madison Street. With Commonwealth Edison building a 40,000-sf facility that on the outside, will resemble an office building, the department of planning and development is suggesting the site across the street could be earmarked for even higher density.

Zoning for both sites allow for a floor-area-ratio of 7.0. With the utility using a ratio of 1.0, the site to the south can be upped to a 13.0, the department suggests. The city has been hoping to generate interest from developers looking to build non-residential commercial development, such as a hotel with first-floor retail space, a department of planning and development official says.

The site is near the Presidential Towers multifamily residential development, as well as newer mid-rise West Loop office buildings.

Besides returning the vacant property to the tax rolls, it also provides a cash-strapped city treasury with a $2-million boost, suggests 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. In addition, ComEd is proposing a building that hardly looks like an electrical transformer station.

“It looks like some sort of office building,” Burnett remarks.

All utility lines will run underground to and from the building, according to ComEd’s plans.

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