Chicago Limo Lot Construction Halted

Posted on August 4, 2004 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

CHICAGO – Built by private contractors on city-owned land off Bessie Coleman Drive, a proposed $8 million center would have given limousine drivers a staging area akin to a truck stop, complete with showers, a car wash and maintenance facilities. The complex was designed to improve service by separating taxicabs and limousines at O'Hare.

Contractor Matt Baines and his partners agreed to build the facility at their own expense on a 428,000-square-foot lot used to stage construction equipment. In exchange, Chicago taxpayers would have received a $1 million per year cut of concession revenues and inherited the improvements at the end of the lease.

City Hall is demanding that a private contractor fill in a giant hole in the ground at O'Hare Airport that has remained unfilled, ever since construction of an $8 million commercial vehicle center was halted amid embarrassing conflicts with one of Mayor Daley's proposed new runways.

"You can't build half a house and just walk away from it. Somebody has to be responsible for that," Chicago Aviation Commissioner John Roberson said.

"They dug the hole. They should be required to return the site to its original condition. If we have to fill it ourselves, we'll look to get those monies back from the developer."

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last spring that City Hall had permanently halted construction of the complex after an airspace study conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration revealed embarrassing conflicts with one of Daley's proposed runways.

Provided utility poles were lowered, the FAA concluded that the center would not pose a conflict with O'Hare's existing runway layout. But, there would be a major conflict with a proposed runway to be known as 27-Right if the feds approve Daley's massive O'Hare expansion project, the FAA found.

"They would probably have to demolish part of that facility because it would be too close to the end of the second or third runway at the north end," FAA Spokesman Tony Molinaro said.

Armed with the FAA's ruling, City Hall demanded that construction "cease and desist" because of nine violations that city officials insist were unrelated. They range from failure to furnish evidence of insurance and provide the city with performance bonds to failure to complete the job and commence operations by Dec. 26, 2002.

Now, Roberson is maintaining that the FAA's airspace ruling had nothing to do with the city's edict. He's demanding the contractor fill the giant hole and return the site to its original condition.

"You didn't deliver the project you said you'd deliver when you said you'd deliver it. We're terminating the project based on that. We're done with it. We're just not going to expend any more time and energy on it," Roberson said.

"It was simply a foundation permit. They erected the walls on their own. When you erect a wall and exceed the scope of a permit, if I was still building commissioner, I would have made them tear it down. You know how this stuff goes. They'll say, 'We've done this. We should be compensated.' But, I don't think there's anything for us to compensate. In fact, it's the other way around. They have to make the city whole."

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