Chicago Planning Commissioner David Reifman on Making Big Plans

In an effort to win over critics, the controversial Lincoln Yards project has doubled the number of affordable housing units it will have to 600 – that’s 10 percent of the entire project.

“We are doubling the number of on-site units that will be constructed within the boundaries of Lincoln Yards,” said Ald. Brian Hopkins, whose 2nd Ward includes most of the $6 billion development.

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“Our vision for these 54 acres along the banks of the North Branch of the Chicago River is progressive and inclusive,” wrote Sterling Bay’s Andy Gloor in a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed.

Sterling Bay initially tried to have fewer units on-site by increasing payments to the Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund which provides affordable housing and rent subsidies to low-income renters around the city.

But after significant pushback, especially from the new chair of the powerful Zoning Committee, Ald. James Cappleman of the 46th Ward, the developers announced they will add more affordable housing units.

“Affordable housing is a crisis throughout the entire city, and the entire city needs to step up,” Cappleman said.

Poll: Should a full City Council vote on the Lincoln Yards proposal be delayed until Chicago’s next mayor is sworn in?

“Is it everything we wanted? Absolutely not,” said activist Diane Limas who serves as the president of the board of the Communities United, a grassroots organization that works on affordable housing issues, among other things. “But we got enough to say that we support these changes.”

Affordable housing is just one issue that’s dogging the project. Sterling Bay added more park space and dropped an entertainment venue and soccer stadium to address neighbors’ concerns about density in an already crowded Lincoln Park.

Another criticism: the lack of transparency regarding the use of $900 million in TIF funds which are supposed to be used to help blighted communities.

“We’ve been told we cannot wait, and there is no alternative to this TIF. But this is a false choice,” said Ald. Michele Smith, who opposes the project. “There are federal funds that we seek every year.”

The project faces the Zoning Committee on Thursday and if it passes that committee, it will face a full City Council vote.

Mayoral candidates Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle, who face a runoff election April 2, want the final vote to be postponed until one of them is sworn in on May 20.

Related stories:

Controversial Lincoln Yards TIF Moves Forward

Judge OKs Suit Aimed at Halting Obama Library in Chicago

Growing List of Aldermen Speak Out Against Lincoln Yards Development

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