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More Midway Land Purchases Coming

English: An Aerial view of Chicago Midway Inte...
English: An Aerial view of Chicago Midway International Airport, a.k.a. the world’s “Busiest Square Mile.” Photo taken and used with permission by: Chris Bungo This photo can be found at: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Chicago City Council committee agreed Wednesday that Chicago Midway International Airport could acquire two more private properties and turn them into green space as part of a years-long effort to improve runway safety at the airport.

The Chicago Committee on Aviation, by a unanimous vote, approved the Mayor Emanuel-sponsored measure, which will next be heard by the full city council. Should the ordinance pass the council, it will allow the city to purchase properties at 5607-5611 W. 63rd St. and 5613 W. 63rd St. in Chicago.

The federal government has deemed acquisition of these properties as necessary for “runway protection,” said Juan Manzano, assistant commissioner for intergovernmental affairs for the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Runway safety has been an ongoing issue at Midway since 2004, when the Federal Aviation Administration found that none of Midway’s runways are in compliance with federal safety standards; the FAA requires a buffer extending 1,000 feet past the end of runways. Midway’s five active runways are too short to accommodate that standard.

This issue was thrust into the national spotlight in December 2006 when a Southwest Airlines jet landing at Midway skidded off a runway, through a fence and onto Central Avenue. The plane came to rest on a car, killing a 6-year-old boy.

English: View of the front of Southwest Airlin...
English: View of the front of Southwest Airlines Flight 1248. This aircraft, N471WN, crashed into the perimeter fence of Chicago Midway International Airport on December 8, 2005. Photo taken and used with permission by: Gabriel Widyna This photo can be found at: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the National Transportation Safety Board ultimately determined pilot-error to be the cause of the accident, federal pressure on the city to make the runways safer intensified.

Midway is landlocked on the city’s Southwest Side and surrounded by private residences, making runway expansion difficult.

“On the South Side, it’s literally airport boundaries then residential street,” said Ald. Marty Quinn, whose 13th Ward includes Midway.

The Chicago Department of Aviation has been obtaining property around Midway for 15 years and converting it to green space, Quinn said.

“The territory on the south of Midway Airport from Austin to Cicero, much of that is now open green space,” he said.

The city council’s most recent approval of property purchases around Midway occurred in November 2011 when the city bought four properties on South Cicero Avenue, a parcel on West 63rd Street and two parcels on West 55th Street. The 2011 ordinance specifically authorized the purchase “for runway buffer zone purposes.”

The latest properties approved for purchase consist of commercial storefronts located across the street from the airport. All Star Fadez, a barbershop, is the only business still operating in any of the locations. The other properties were formally a cell phone store, an insurance office and a self-defense studio.

The ordinance allows for the negotiation of a fair market price with the owners but does allow for the government to take the property through its power of eminent domain.

According to the Cook County Assessor’s website, the parcel located at 5609 W. 63rd St. was assessed in 2014 for $80,535.00, up from $56,591.00 in 2013. The parcel located at 5613 W. 63rd Street was assessed in 2014 for $60,962.00, which is identical to its 2013 assessment.

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