Chicago bureaucrats and politicians are colluding on plans to seize private property through eminent domain for a high-rise hotel.
The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, commonly known as McPier, along with Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, have announced their intent to build a hotel just west of Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center (which just so happens to also be owned and managed by McPier). Their plans conveniently ignore an important fact: JRM Technology, a data center development company, already owns the property chosen for the would-be hotel and does not have plans to move.
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In fact, JRMT has invested $400 million in developing the site into a much-needed data center to serve downtown Chicago. James McHugh, founder and principal of JRMT, explained, “That plan has already received City Council approval and we would start construction as soon as a building permit is issued.”
Though McPier is technically a private company, it was actually created by the Illinois General Assembly in 1989. The Board of Directors is appointed by the Governor of Illinois and the Mayor of Chicago. It’s little wonder McPier has maintained expedient ties to offices of political power and is now using those ties to pressure JRM to surrender the land it rightfully owns.
“If for some reason [JRM] doesn't [agree to a deal], the city is prepared to use its eminent domain power,”McPier CEO Jim Reilly said. That’s bad news for James McHugh and property owners across the city.
Apparently property rights are of no concern to local government officials in this scenario. After all, the mayor and governor have far more important things to consider, like the tourism proceeds and tax revenues a 35-story hotel might bring to the Windy City.Projects built using eminent domain—which are built on mere promises and not guarantees—often fail to meet expectations.
-- Robert Fountain
Robert Fountain is a Maffucci Fellow at the Institute for Justice