Governor Rauner hopes to turn South Loop dud into world-class research hub

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An IKEA. Gambling riverboats. A theme park.

And now a sprawling innovation and research center — helmed by the University of Illinois — touted as an economic boon to Chicago.

That’s the latest plan for a historically vacant patch of 62 acres of riverfront land just east of the Chicago River and south of Roosevelt Road. Developers envision an eventual mix of residential, commercial and entertainment features that will make it “the city’s 78th neighborhood.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner plans to make it official on Thursday, sharing his vision for the South Loop land parcel — worth an estimated $151.1 million — that has been little more than an eyesore for decades.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel gives the ambitious plan a thumbs up, although House Speaker Michael Madigan is taking more of a wait-and-see attitude.”

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