Chicago Plan Commission signs off on $95 million West Garfield Park police/fire academy, despite public objections

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police and fire academy rendering
Rendering of the planned 95 million police and fire training academy

The Chicago Plan Commission has given the go-ahead for a $95 million police and fire training academy in West Garfield Park, despite objections of some people who would rather the funds be put to other uses.

The commission on Feb. 21 approved an “institutional planned development”, allowing for construction of the new 500,000 sq. ft. academy campus on a 30-acre site at 4301 W. Chicago Ave.

As well, the commission signed off on two new tax-increment financing (TIF) districts that, together, are expected to generate at least $1.6 billion for infrastructure improvements to unlock the development potential of two mega-projects: Lincoln Yards on a riverfront site formerly reserved for manufacturing and the “78,” at Clark Street and Roosevelt Road in the South Loop, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The police academy and Lincoln Yards projects are partly linked by financing plan set by outgoing mayor Rahm Emanuel that still has a $37 million gap.

City Council has appropriated $20 million from the sale of a fleet maintenance facility at 1685 N. Throop St. (part of Sterling Bay’s $6 billion Lincoln Yards development) for the new police academy.

Once council signs off on a pending design and build contract, the academy would appear to be a done deal, the Tribune reported.

However, mayoral candidate Amara Enyia — who joined other protesters at the plan commission meeting — held out the possibility of a court challenge similar to the one that derailed plans to turn the National Teachers Academy into a new South Loop high school.

“The lesson even in that fight was, we never give up,” she said. We have to try every possible avenue to make sure that our voice is heard.”

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