Developer Sterling Bay released additional details and renderings by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for the Lincoln Yards mega-development during a packed public meeting in Chicago’s 2nd Ward on July 18. A master plan of the site was also introduced, as well as some eyebrow-raising figures: 5,000 residential units, 500 hotel rooms, 23,000 on-site jobs, 13 acres of public space, 1 mile of new riverwalk, and a 1,300 feet extension to the 606, as well as the potential for the construction of multiple skyscrapers reaching up to 800 feet, or approximately 70 stories. The project currently encompasses 52 acres of the industrial corridor between Lincoln Park and Wicker Park, the result of three years of calculated land purchases by Sterling Bay along the Chicago River and within the area of the north side bordered by North Avenue, Elston Avenue, Webster Avenue, and Clybourn Avenue. If implemented as proposed the project would have a prodigious effect on the north branch of the Chicago River and multiple north side communities, businesses, and pieces of infrastructure. It would be an instant neighborhood created by a single developer.
The development is presented with two distinct spatial components: The residential and commercial structures, as well as the proposed skyscrapers, will be constructed north of the bend in the Chicago River, while the south side will house the entertainment venues and recreational space. While the north side is now vacant land, cleared of the former A. Finkl & Sons steel plant last year, the south still has existing buildings with an enclave of small businesses immediately to the west, a combination of mixed-use manufacturing buildings, retail, restaurants, and bars, including Chicago’s iconic Hideout music venue. Despite the long transition to contemporary development, old-line manufacturing is still prevalent within and along Lincoln Yard’s proposed borders, and the General Iron Industries scrapyard is located prominently across the river. While General Iron Industries plans to move operations to the southeast side in 2020, some local businesses have made it clear that they intend to stay as the development of the project begins, as the Chicago Tribune reported.
Sterling Bay has pledged to conduct traffic studies and congestion mitigation at area intersections but is also proposing to remove several small streets and easements in favor of a new diagonal thoroughfare, Dominick Street, that would cut across the center of the development. However, the development’s approach of creating Loop-style density from scratch has yet to be tested, and with congestion already a nuisance at the existing site, the addition of 5,000 residential units, hundreds of hotel rooms, and a 20,000-seat soccer stadium will likely prove problematic for those living in surrounding communities that are defined primarily by two– and three–story vernacular structures and are the result of an ever-evolving architectural and cultural narrative. Sterling Bay has pledged to provide affordable housing and retain some of the historic industrial features of the area, such as truss bridges, but has not articulated how that will occur outside of the development following applicable laws.
Sterling Bay intends to pursue local and federal funds to make infrastructure improvements, including changes to roadways and mobility systems. The federal assistance would require that the project complies with all local, state, and federal environmental and historic preservation laws before ground is broken, a process that will ultimately resemble the review required to construct the Obama Presidential Center in South Shore. The developer has also yet to provide additional detail on the proposed 23,000 permanent jobs, or whether the project area will increase as additional land becomes available.
The proposal is expected to be filed to city council as soon as the end of July.