CHICAGO — A group of Wicker Park neighbors were frustrated Friday after a community meeting to discuss the planned 55-acre Lincoln Yards development was canceled — but developer Sterling Bay said they never agreed to the meeting in the first place.
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) announced on Friday that a meeting, originally scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 21 at the A.N. Pritzker School in Wicker Park, had been called off.
“As stated previously, I intend to vote against this project at the next Zoning Committee meeting, unless significant positive changes, across the board, are made to the plan,” Moreno said in a tweet.
A representative for Sterling Bay said the meeting was scheduled without their knowledge and they would not have been able to attend since it coincides with a Community Development Commission meeting that day — where the commission will vote on whether or not to approve the $900 million Cortland/Chicago River Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) District proposal.
The Wicker Park Committee, a neighborhood group that co-organized the meeting, officially canceled it on Friday after learning that neither Sterling Bay nor city staffers would show.
“It got to be kind of a clumsy format that seemed to be not very productive,” said Ed Tamminga, preservation and development chair of the Wicker Park Committee. “I think it’s just as good that we call it off. I’m not certain with just the alderman there, that it was going to resolve anything.”
Last week, Moreno’s chief of staff Raymond Valadez asked the Wicker Park Committee if the group would be interested in co-organizing a community meeting in which residents could meet with Sterling Bay officials.
The goal, Tamminga said, was to create an opportunity where residents could press the developers on the details and specifics of the project’s master plan.
But because the development had already been approved by the city’s Plan Commission, Tamminga said he wasn’t shocked that Sterling Bay wouldn’t be attending.
“The master plan has gotten through the Plan Commission,” he said. “So there’s a lot less incentive to open this up to public scrutiny.”
Valadez said the 1st Ward office tried to convince staffers from the city’s Department of Planning and Development to walk Wicker Park residents through details of the master plan, but that was also not possible due to a scheduling conflict.
City officials “are not in a position to defend the master plan,” Tamminga said. “That’s the responsibility of Sterling Bay. And of course, they’re not there.”
Unlike leaders in Lincoln Park, the Wicker Park Committee has yet to take an official position on Lincoln Yards.
Last fall, Sterling Bay developers agreed to meet with Tamminga and other Wicker Park leaders in an intimate setting in the developer’s office.
At that meeting, the Lincoln Yards developers discussed some details of their master plan. They also vowed to have similar meetings in the future as the development progresses, Tamminga said.
Such a meeting has yet to take place.
Though there will be no community meeting next week, there will be action on the Lincoln Yards plan. The Community Development Commission is slated to consider the proposed Cortland/Chicago River TIF District at its Tuesday meeting.
The Community Development Commission does not officially appropriate or designate a TIF district, but the commission will essentially be making sure the TIF application is legal and that all of the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted.
It is likely that the $900 million TIF that includes Lincoln Yards will clear the the commission, which means that the City Council could vote on the development as soon as March 13.
So far, 11 aldermen — including Moreno — have vowed to vote against the development. A majority of the 50-member City Council is needed to reject the project.
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