UPDATE: Feb. 4, 2019: Sterling Bay’s $6 billion Lincoln Yards development won unanimous approval from the Chicago Plan Commission on Jan. 24, even earning a thumbs up from former critic Alderman Brian Hopkins of the city’s 2nd Ward. It was at the insistence of Hopkins and his constituents that the developer make such sweeping changes to its plans, including the removal of the 18,000-seat soccer stadium and a Live Nation entertainment district.
The project’s final approval is not assured, however, as at least 10 aldermen, some of whom are on the city council’s zoning committee, have said they are not ready to give the project their votes, according to Curbed Chicago. Lincoln Yards will next go before the zoning committee for a vote.
Objections to the project include the use of a tax increment financing district, that the percentage of affordable housing is too low and the potential negative impact on surrounding wards.
UPDATE: Jan. 22, 2019: Chicago Alderman Brian Hopkins, in an email to his constituents, announced that Sterling Bay has submitted an updated master plan for Lincoln Yards after Hopkins rejected the developer's first revised proposal earlier this month.
- Elimination of the soccer stadium.
- Increase in park space to 40% of the site, including an 11-acre connecting park with sports fields.
- Replacement of the entertainment district with small venues placed throughout the development.
- Lower density and decreased building heights.
- More onsite and offsite infrastructure improvements on either side of the Chicago River.
In a second email sent Jan. 21, Hopkins said the elements of the revised plan are subject to community review, that the Chicago Plan Commission will review them on Jan. 24. but that the proposal must still win approval from other agencies as well. Hopkins said a final Lincoln Yards plan must also acknowledge the need for additional park space in the future and provide more money for the possible purchase of land adjacent to the development.
- In a Jan. 8 email to his 2nd Ward constituents, Chicago Alderman Brian Hopkins announced he would not approve developer Sterling Bay's $6 billion Lincoln Yards development as long as the master plan includes a proposed 20,000-seat soccer stadium and Live Nation ownership of entertainment venues, Crain’s Chicago Business reported.
- Hopkins wrote that if the project is to win his support, the stadium site must be converted into “open and recreational park space” and that the planned Live Nation entertainment district must be replaced by smaller entertainment spots, restaurants and theaters instead of the larger, planned 3,000- to 6,000-seat venues. Hopkins said 2nd Ward residents were concerned about congestion, how stadium crowds would affect residential neighborhoods and how Live Nation operations would impact local, independent music venues. There was no indication from Hopkins that there was serious opposition to residential and other mixed-use components of the project.
- In his email, Hopkins wrote that Sterling Bay would revise its plan and resubmit it for community review as part of a process that is “ongoing and will continue to be refined over many years, if not decades.” In a statement on its website, Sterling Bay said it heard Hopkins and 2nd Ward residents “loud and clear,” that it would make the necessary changes and that it was “excited about Lincoln Yards.”
What the 2nd Ward community and Hopkins rejected was actually Sterling Bay’s second pass at a plan for the 54-acre, 12.8-million-square-foot Lincoln Yards after initial feedback. The developer lowered the height of the tallest building from 800 feet to 650 feet and added more public space, but it obviously was not enough to quell local concerns. In fact, after the November meeting, Hopkins indicated that Sterling Bay still had a way to go in winning his approval.
Developers of Chicago real estate need alderman approval before any project can move forward, and the promise of economic benefit and jobs isn’t enough to seal the deal. The Lincoln Yards project as is, for example, was expected to create as many as 2,500 construction jobs during the first 10 years of buildout.
Alderman Brendan Reilly of the city’s 42nd Ward has also stopped a few high-profile projects in their tracks during the last few years — a Related Midwest proposal for dual skyscrapers on the Chicago waterfront and Symmetry Development’s plans for a 60-story mixed-use tower with a hotel, retail and condos. Reilly’s concerns, like Hopkins', revolved around how the projects would impact local neighborhoods as far as density and congestion.