More affordable housing added to Lincoln Yards development plan

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Lincoln Yards development will now include more affordable housing options, 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins announced Tuesday.

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.

Developer Sterling Bay has agreed to double the amount of on-site affordable housing units from 300 to 600, a 10 percent share.

"People from across the city are now screaming out that we need more affordable housing for working class people throughout the city of Chicago, not just in one community, but in all communities," said 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett.

"We expect this to gain additional support in the city council, we expect a favorable vote in the Zoning Committee on Thursday," Hopkins said.

Mayoral candidates Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot, some community groups and two neighboring aldermen are asking for a delay in the Zoning Committee vote until after a new mayor and city council are sworn in.

"This isn't really about the affordable housing issue, this is about the financial issues the city is suffering through right now," said 32nd ward Alderman Scott Waguespack.

Last month, Chicago's Community Development Commission voted $800 million in TIF money to be used for the mixed use development.

Waguespack says the financial proposal is a bad deal for the city, as does Chicago Public Schools teacher Jhoanna Maldonado, who is protesting the plan.

"We are tired of hearing we don't have the money for special ed teachers, for bilingual services, for clinicians, counselors, every time we ask we are told there is not money," she said.

The project and the use of TIF money has the backing of Alderman Hopkins. He said public money will only be spent on infrastructure, including three new bridges over the Chicago River, road improvements and a new Metra station.

Ald. Hopkins argues infrastructure improvements are needed with or without Lincoln Yards. He also says there is no need for a delay.

Hopkins described the process as inclusive and thorough, with many changes that have met the community demands.

"Reducing the density by eliminating the entertainment district, eliminating the soccer stadium, doubling the square footage of the proposed recreation park," said Hopkins as he lists the changes.

Hopkins is confident there will be enough votes for the project to get through the Zoning Committee. Its chairman, 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman, demanded that Sterling Bay increase the number of affordable housing units. The TIF portion of the project still needs to clear the Finance Committee, then a vote from the full city council.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is anxious to get the project passed before he leaves office in May.
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