The developer behind the One Central project—an ambitious proposal for multiple skyscrapers on top of the train tracks west of Soldier Field—is reportedly partnering with the Chicago Bears. 

The information came to light at an online meeting hosted by Landmark Development and RSO Architecture reported by Streetsblog Chicago. Much of the article focused on the development's transit hub, skepticism about the need for such a facility, and why the State of Illinois is on the hook for $6.5 billion to buy the hub when it's already "privately financed." However, there was a particularly tasty nugget of information about the Bears' involvement in the project:

"Since Soldier Field does not host retail establishments, One Central is partnering with the Bears to allow them to run several restaurants and memorabilia and gift shop for attendees and tourists. If Landmark Development is this far along in a partnership with the Bears, that calls into question the Bears' supposed interest in relocating from Soldier Field to Arlington Heights."

Landmark Development

If recent threats by the Bears to move to the suburbs were part of some negotiation tactic, a partnership between the team and the developer behind a huge mixed-use project next to Soldier Field fills in some of the blanks. One Central still needs zoning approval, so enticing the Bears to stay put could give Landmark leverage with City Hall.

The massive development would also give the NFL franchise a rare opportunity to grow its real estate footprint west of DuSable Lakeshore Drive and generate revenue beyond game days. Soldier Field's geographical constraints are among the reasons cited for the Bears' potential move, according to some reports.

"While modern stadiums across professional sports have become part of miniature entertainment districts that give franchises year-round opportunities to engage with and milk revenue from fans, Soldier Field has little room for such development, nor have the Bears been allowed to do much with what is there," noted Danny Ecker of Crain's

Of course, One Central won't solely be occupied by souvenir shops and sports bars. The proposed megaproject calls for more than 22 million square feet of mixed-use commercial, residential, and hotel space spread across a multilevel podium and nine skyscrapers rising between 800 and 1,000 feet. The Gensler-master-planned complex would also directly connect to McCormick Place, according to the Streetsblog report.

A recording of the online meeting has not been uploaded and the Facebook event link is no longer active (perhaps deleted?), so additional details are limited and many questions still linger. But if a Bears-One Central collaboration is indeed in the works, the odds of the controversial South Loop development happening—and the football team abandoning its Arlington Heights aspirations—have undoubtedly gone up.

7/19 Update: Landmark Development disputed reports of a partnership with the Chicago Bears in a statement to Urbanize: "There has been no partnership formed between the Bears organization and Landmark regarding One Central," said the developer. "Landmark has simply kept the Bears and other community stakeholder groups informed of key activities related to the development of One Central."