Related Midwest has begun work on the Wells-Wentworth Connector, the long-anticipated link that will connect downtown to Chinatown by way of The 78, the developer’s vibrant, mixed-use community along the Chicago River. Part of the first phase of the development, the infrastructure work will provide additional thoroughfare for drivers and safe, modern pathways for pedestrians and bikers.
“The Wells-Wentworth Connector is an important step in the development of The 78,” said Curt Bailey, president of Related Midwest. “Because The 78 will sit on 62 acres of land that has been undeveloped for 90 years, this road will directly connect the Loop to many neighborhoods, including Chinatown, for the first time. The Connector will be a safe, beautiful streetscape to travel on, whether by car, bike or foot, and we’re excited about the positive economic impact it will have on the surrounding communities.”
Throughout a two-year collaboration, Related Midwest and the Chicago Department of Transportation created a design that prioritize safety while considering the various modes of transit preferred by city dwellers. A double parkway integrates raised, separated bike lanes into a tree-lined path that helps ensure the safety of bikers by keeping them separate from automobile and pedestrian traffic.
Street lighting—along with additional lighting for pedestrians—will create an aesthetically pleasing, multi-tiered space that illuminates the entire sidewalk, bikeway and landscape. In addition, speed tables will ensure traffic moves safely, improve the walkability of the surrounding neighborhood and improve access to Ping Tom Memorial Park. Site Design Group, the award-winning urban design firm led by Ernie Wong, who created Riverwalk East, Pilsen Mural Park and Ping Tom Park, is the landscape architect for the Wells Wentworth-Connector.
Bordered by Roosevelt Road, Clark Street, 15th Street and the river, The 78 will include green and open space that features a fully activated, five-acre riverfront and a seven-acre public park; public art; residential, retail and restaurant offerings; office space to attract flagship companies and cultural institutions. The Wells-Wentworth Connector is one of several major infrastructure improvements in and around The 78, including a new CTA Red Line station, relocation of the existing Metra tracks and reconstruction of the Chicago River seawall.
“While The 78 will bring economic benefits to all of Chicago, we expect it has the power to transform Chinatown in significant ways,” said Emma Yu, executive director of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. “Chinatown is home to many small and family-owned businesses and the Wells-Wentworth Connector will open up those companies to access from visitors from other neighborhoods and bring additional business growth to our community.”
In addition to infrastructure improvements, The 78 will provide opportunities for more than 15,000 trade, construction and professional services jobs and 24,000 new, permanent jobs. It will also create economic opportunities that directly benefit residents of the city’s South and West sides. To help guide its efforts to create sustainable careers through development of The 78, Related Midwest has formed the Community Inclusion Council (CIC), a trusted group of civic, business and community partners who will focus on diversity and inclusion in hiring and contracting at The 78.