A city panel gave the go-ahead today to earmarking $10 million in local public funds to help pay for turning a former window factory on Goose Island into a high tech manufacturing hub that Mayor Rahm Emanuel hopes will help increase private investment in that sector of Chicago's economy.
The Community Development Commission gave its OK to using the $10 million in tax-increment financing money to help cover the cost of converting the former Republic Windows and Doors building into the UI Labs facility.
Approval was expected, since Emanuel appoints members of the CDC and already has spoken about the city's $10 million share of the cost of getting the lab going.
Last week, UI Labs officials said they had signed a lease for 94,000 square feet of space in the former Republic facility. Construction is set to begin this summer, and the Digital Lab for Manufacturing is expected to open on the site early next year.
The city's portion is part of $250 million in local money from a group of private companies that also includes $16 million in state money that will go toward jump-starting the lab.
The spending recommendation will next go to the city Council Finance Committee. Emanuel has declined to place an upper limit on how much the city might eventually contribute, but predicted that the lab will soon pay for itself through royalty payments from U.S. patents granted thanks to research done there.
In February, President Barack Obama announced that the Defense Department would contribute $70 million over five years to the Chicago lab, one of several manufacturing hubs he wants to set up around the country to compete with other nations in developing modern design standards.
Today, Ald. Walter Burnett predicted that the project will help manufacturing citywide and provide another boost to the Goose Island area.
"This is just ideal for the city," said Burnett, 27th. "It's going to bring a lot of excitement to the city of Chicago, a lot of excitement to that community, and it's going to help stabilize what's going on in that area."