Chicago’s Plan Commission unanimously approved Thursday a proposed $6 billion development along the Chicago River dubbed “Lincoln Yards.”
Over 100 people packed the city council chambers Thursday morning to testify. Developer Sterling Bay offered a last-minute rewrite of the 15 million square-foot project after growing opposition from the community forced the developer to scrap plans for a soccer stadium and outdoor concert venue. The zoning plans cover 53 acres of riverfront property in the North Branch industrial corridor, an area that had been exclusively reserved for manufacturing until the city overhauled the zoning code to allow commercial and residential developments.
Many supporters of the plan included those in the construction industry, but dozens argued against it, saying the project was moving too fast and would ruin the area’s character.
“All we are asking is, slow it down,” said Katie Tuten who, along with her husband, owns The Hideout — a longtime bar and independent music venue located just feet from the proposed development. “The Hideout is probably the only people in this room that is in the area that is being discussed, and only once did a representative of (the developer) Sterling Bay come to talk to us.”
The development received critical backing from local Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward).
“I’m here to put my name and my reputation on the line in support of moving forward with Lincoln Yards today,” said Hopkins, who was booed by onlookers watching from the third floor gallery when he began speaking.
Neighboring aldermen were much less supportive.
“Our City Council process is in turmoil,” Ald. Michele Smith (43rd Ward) said. “Our community supports development of the North Branch Corridor, but it does not support this plan today.”
Smith also mentioned the developer’s former connection to embattled Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward). Sterling Bay was one of two companies proposing giant real estate projects in Chicago that fired Burke’s law firm weeks after federal prosecutors charged him with attempting to extort business for his private practice. Sterling Bay is one of the city’s largest developers. Many of its recent developments are in the booning Fulton Market District and West Loop, including McDonald’s newly built Chicago headquarters. The developer purchased the riverfront property from the city in 2017.
The Plan Commission says the project would be beneficial to the public, including 34,000 jobs, 21 acres of park space, $121 million in bonus payments and corridor fees, and a 20 percent affordable obligation for 6,000 residential units planned for the site. The first phase of the project will consist of 1.32 million square feet of offices, 108,000 square feet of retail, and 1,400 parking spaces.