After years of delays, an investor group is set to open a helicopter landing facility on the Near West Side and test the demand for commercial helicopter and other vertical-takeoff flights close to downtown.
Vertiport Chicago, a $13 million development, hopes to draw corporate customers that want to zip executives in helicopters over congested roads from regional airports to a point near the Loop. Vertiport also aims to attract sightseeing operators and handle emergency-medical flights for nearby hospitals. One of the project’s developers once estimated that the heliport could handle 18,000 flights annually.
Construction on the facility, located 4 miles from downtown, was completed earlier this year. A grand opening is scheduled for tomorrow.
The facility, which has 30,000 square feet of hangar space, office areas, refueling stations and helipads, is built on about 10 acres at 13th and Wood streets, land owned by the Illinois Medical District, a state economic development agency.
Vertiport Chicago’s debut marks the return of a dedicated commercial helicopter facility and flights to downtown, an aviation option that has been unavailable since then-Mayor Richard M. Daley ordered Meigs Field demolished without federal approval in 2003.
Since the wrecking ball hit Meigs, commercial helicopter flights oriented toward downtown haven’t had a place to take off and land. However, medical district helicopter flights use an area in front of the old Cook County Hospital as their pad, while the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital has a landing pad, but commercial flights aren’t allowed there.