Lincoln Yards development plan passes Zoning Committee

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago City Council Zoning Committee passed the controversial Lincoln Yards development Thursday afternoon.

The plan passed by a vote of 9-4.

Lincoln Yards is a multi-use project set to be placed on the former Finkl Steel site on the Northwest Side, covering about 55 acres of riverfront land between North and Webster avenues. It's the largest development in Chicago's history.

Neighbors are concerned about how the development will impact traffic flow and how schools will handle an influx of new residents, among other issues. Proponents say the project will create jobs and bring economic development to the area.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is eager to get the project passed before he leaves office in May, though mayoral candidates Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot, some community groups and two neighboring aldermen had asked for a delay in the Zoning Committee vote until after a new mayor and city council are sworn in.

The vote followed eleventh hour changes to the $6 billion to the project, which were announced by Alderman Brian Hopkins. Lincoln Yards will sit in his ward, the 2nd.

"We've knocked down the density from 15 million square feet to the 14.5 million. That is basically a 23 story building we took out of this plan," he said.

Developer Sterling Bay is also shaving 50 feet off of building height and agreeing to a community review process. Sterling Bay also announced more on-site affordable housing earlier this week.

Hopkins says all these changes, plus dropped plans for a soccer stadium and entertainment district, were the result of community demands.

But many groups and some aldermen are calling for the process to slow down.

Alderman Michele Smith's 43rd Ward is next to the project. She points out that the proposal doesn't include plans for a new school or library.

"What we don't need is a development that makes developers rich in a sprint for approval and leaves taxpayers, families holding the bag," she said.

The zoning portion of the project heads to the full city council next. Sterling Bay still needs approval from the Finance Committee for use of TIF funds.
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