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Zoning Committee OKs Bridgeport Heliport Plan

Computer-generated rendering of a heliport planned for the Bridgeport neighborhood. (Credit: Chicago Helicopter Express)

Computer-generated rendering of a heliport planned for the Bridgeport neighborhood. (Credit: Chicago Helicopter Express)

Mike Krauser Mike Krauser
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CHICAGO (CBS) – A Wheeling company’s plan to build a heliport along the Chicago River in Bridgeport has cleared a major hurdle, and likely will be approved by the City Council on Wednesday, over the objections of some people who live nearby.

WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports Chicago Helicopter Express, a helicopter tour company, plans to build 14 helipads, a 17,500-square-foot hangar, a terminal, and an aircraft fueling station on a 4.6-acre site on the 2400 block of South Halsted Street, along the south branch of the Chicago River.

Chris, who lives just down the block, said the heliport is a good idea.

“Sure it is. You have vacant land there. It’s just rubble, and it’s development, and we need some development here,” he said. “The residents right here want it. It’s just outside agitators that are paid troublemakers that don’t want it.”

Residents in neighboring Pilsen were vocal in their opposition to the heliport, citing safety and noise concerns.

But local residents pointed out there’s already an expressway, a firehouse, and CTA Orange Line tracks near the site, so a heliport shouldn’t be that much more noise.

Chicago Helicopter Express also has pledged to build sound barriers, and not to fly over any residential areas. The company has laid out a flight path for its helicopter tours 2,000 feet above the busy Stevenson Expressway, which cuts through the northern edge of Bridgeport, out to the lakefront just south of McCormick Place. The heliport would be located just north of the expressway, and the flight plan would not take helicopters over any homes.

A flight plan for helicopters using a heliport in Bridgeport would limit flights to a path 2,000 feet over the Stevenson Expressway. (Credit: Chicago Heliport Express)

A flight plan for helicopters using a heliport in Bridgeport would limit flights to a path 2,000 feet over the Stevenson Expressway. (Credit: Chicago Heliport Express)

Ald. Danny Solis (25th), who represents the Pilsen neighborhood and chairs the City Council Zoning Committee, opposed the facility. But Ald. James Balcer (11th), who represents Bridgeport, supported the project, seeing economic benefits from a heliport in the ward.

So does Edward Gauss, who lives down the street from where the heliport would be built.

“I think it’s a great thing for the neighborhood. It brings businesses in,” he said.

Solis noted the fatal crash of a news helicopter in Seattle in voting against the zoning changes needed for the heliport.

Typically, though, the council does not stand in the way of another alderman’s wishes concerning zoning matters in that alderman’s ward, so Balcer got his way at Tuesday’s Zoning Committee meeting.

The measure will come up for a vote at Wednesday’s meeting of the full City Council, and is likely to win passage.