Bridgeport heliport given green light by Chicago Plan Commission

March 21, 2014 (CHICAGO)

There is still community opposition to the heliport.

An empty lot in Bridgeport is the proposed site of Chicago's newest heliport.

Chicago Helicopter Express wants to move its operations to the south branch of the Chicago River and build a heliport near 24th and Halsted and 11th Ward Alderman James Balcer says that's a good thing.

"We have an area on down Halsted and on Archer where we need businesses brought in. It will bring in businesses and he's bringing in jobs," he said.

The company currently operates out of the suburban Chicago Executive Airport. The proposal, which has already been okayed by the city council's planning committee, calls for the creation of 14 pads for launching and landing the company's tour and charter helicopters.

Privately owned helicopters, along with "approved" third-party operators like police and fire, medical, media and industrial, would also have access to the heliport.

Company officials say flights would run from 10 in the morning until 10 at night every day.

The facility, which includes a hangar, observation deck and riverside water taxi dock, would be open from 5:30 a.m. and until midnight for maintenance and other tasks.

"My concern is that it its dangerous. Those helicopters have crashed in Seattle, killing four people," said Bridgeport resident Janet LaMonica.

The waterfront heliport would initially launch 20 takeoffs a day, but could grow to become the busiest facility in the six-county area, with up to 125 takeoffs and landings daily.

Critics say the helicopter hub would disrupt the neighborhood.

"Our concerns about the helicopters are the noise. Helicopters are very noisy," said Bridgeport resident John Tominello.

The CEO of Chicago Helicopter Express recently said there would be no noise impact to the local community and that the choppers would maintain a flight path above railroad tracks, the highways and the river.

And although the plan lost the support of some in Pilsen, business owner Rapheal Barreda says the heliport would boost tourism in that part of the city.

"It can benefit us all. If we bring new business to the area, we can all benefit from that," Barreda said.

Still, groups like the newly formed Bridgeport Business Association want the company to put their promises in writing.

"We'd like to put in writing a lot of the claims that the company made. We want a deal, we don't want powerpoint presentations," said Rob Warmoswki, Bridgeport Business Association.

If passed by the Zoning Committee, the measure will go before the full City Council next month.

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