Just south of downtown, the Wells-Wentworth Connector is taking shape in new photos from the Chicago Department of Transportation.
"The major segment of the new Wells Street roadway south of Roosevelt Road has been completed with final landscaping ongoing," CDOT spokesperson Michael Claffey told Urbanize.
Crews from F.H. Paschen have also completed one of the two rail bridges associated with the project. The new bridge replaces one from 1930 and was completed six days ahead of schedule, according to Claffey. Construction on the second bridge will begin later this year.
The new north-south roadway features new lighting and a tree-lined double parkway designed to safely separate cyclists, pedestrians, and car traffic. The street uses raised speed tables (essentially flattened speed bumps) to discourage speeding.
When the Wells-Wentworth Connector opens to traffic in 2022, it will not only provide a vital connection between the Loop and Chinatown, but serve as Main Street for what basically amounts to a whole new neighborhood: a 62-acre mixed-use megadevelopment dubbed The 78.
Developed by Related Midwest and master-planned by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the estimated $7 billion project is zoned for up to 13 million square feet of residential and commercial buildings with towers reaches as high as 950 feet.
The plan includes 12 acres of open space and a University of Illinois research and innovation center known as the Discovery Partners Institute. A public riverwalk at the 78 will eventually connect to riverfront paths at planned developments to the north, such as The Reed at Southbank.
Construction of the Wells-Wentworth Connector is supported by $700 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) which the city approved for The 78 in 2019. The funds will also be used to complete other infrastructure at the site, including work to relocate Metra rail tracks and construct a new CTA Red Line subway station at Clark and 15th streets.
The 78 is expected to take 10 to 20 years to fully build out. Related declined to comment on its schedule for breaking ground and completing other phases of the project, and the CTA did not respond to a request for comment regarding its timetable for the new Red Line Station.
According to the City of Chicago's website for The 78, Related Midwest is "studying potential modifications to their design and future plans in response to shifting market conditions prior to proceeding."