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CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) — Beginning Friday, thousands of music fans will pack part of the city’s south lakefront for a three-day music festival headlined by the Dave Matthews Band.
But the event has many wondering: Can that part of town handle the crowds and traffic?
Last-minute preparations were underway Thursday, but organizers are confident that the three-day event will be a success, introducing not just a new concert venue but the start of a new neighborhood.
The 600-acre site once held U.S. Steel’s South Works. The transformation didn’t come easy.
“In my 23 years with Jam, this is the most challenging project I’ve had,” Don Robinson of Jam Productions told CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley.
In just a few months, the huge site was largely cleared of trees, rocks and metal debris. What’s left isn’t exactly Ravinia, but it’s spacious, with three main stages and side attractions like a Ferris wheel.
The concert is also an introduction to the wider world for ambitious plans for the site, which would include an upscale neighborhood of homes, shops, and waterfront parks.
Still, the weekend’s promise presents potential problems, particularly with traffic. Crowds of more than 30,000 are expected each day on a site ringed by streets that aren’t set up to handle that kind of volume.
“No Parking” signs are riling homeowners in the neighborhood known as “The Bush,” Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports.
Mario Vega has lived in the neighborhood, near 84th and Burley, for his whole life. Now the signs are up telling him he can’t park near his home because of the Dave Matthews Band Caravan.
“I have my city sticker, my state sticker, my insurance. All of a sudden, now this caravan comes and I can’t park in front of my house,” he said.
Vega reckons he’ll have to park at least three blocks away.
Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) downplayed concerns about parking and the potential for crime.
“The city has engaged in a very intense planning process,” she said. ”Every security precaution that the city can put to bear on this will be fully in effect this weekend.”
LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Steve Miller Reports
Thursday afternoon, after complaints from residents, the city lifted parking restrictions on a few streets, but kept them on others.
CTA shuttle buses will operate from the 87th/Red Line station to the entrance of the concert venue all three days. The buses will be marked with special designations signs labeled “Going Your Way” when headed to the venue and “To 87th Red Line” during return trips, a release from the CTA said.
On all concert days, shuttles will operate every 15-20 minutes from 1 p.m. until about an hour after the concert ends, or as crowds warrant, the release said.
In addition, customers can take the No. 87 Street bus to the end of the line east to 91st/Commercial and then walk a short distance to the concert venue. The No. 87 will operate during its regular hours throughout the weekend.
The CTA will also operate longer trains on the Red Line to accommodate customers heading to the concert. On all concert days, longer trains will operate until 1 a.m. from the 95th Street station.
Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire