CITY HALL — Aldermen are set to advance $1.6 billion in city subsidies to fuel two massive developments that will transform Chicago’s landscape with 16,000 new apartments and condominiums.
As Mayor Rahm Emanuel and 11 or as many as 14 aldermen prepare to end their terms in a blaze of activity, they are set to create two new neighborhoods — Lincoln Yards and the so-called 78 — that critics contend will exacerbate Chicago’s affordable housing shortfall and the economic or racial segregation plaguing the city.
In March, 14 aldermen voted against Lincoln Yards, a $6 billion project that promises to transform 55 acres along the North Branch of the Chicago River with 6,000 units between Lincoln Park and Bucktown.
Supporters hope it will signal the final transformation of Chicago from an industrial behemoth to a city poised for growth in the 21st Century, while critics contend the projects offer only “crumbs” to the rest of the city.
Ald. Pat O’Connor (40) — whose Finance Committee is set to consider the subsidy at its meeting set for 10 a.m. Monday — told reporters this week he is confident that there will be at least 26 votes to approve the creation of the new 168-acre Cortland and Chicago River Redevelopment Area (F2018-72), which will generate at least $900 million to cover the cost of infrastructure projects.
However, if aldermen give final approval to Lincoln Yards and the 78 — and hand Emanuel one of his last major victories — they will do so over the objections of Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot, who released a statement late Sunday calling on O’Connor not to hold a vote on either project — but instead hold a “transparent and fulsome” hearing to “address questions including consequences for other TIF districts, affordable housing options, plans for minority- and women-owned businesses, and impacts on diversity, population density, schools, traffic, and other factors.”
“From day one, I have raised concerns about these deals and the deeply flawed process that has led us to this moment,” Lightfoot said. “For major development projects to drive equitable economic growth, they must be coupled with community input and a transparent, informed decision-making process.”
Eight aldermen-elect also called for the subsidy to be rejected: Daniel LaSpata (1), Jeanette Taylor (20), Michael Rodriguez (22), Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25), Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33), Andre Vasquez (40), Matt Martin (47) and Maria Hadden (49).
“The money for the megaTIFs should be returned to the public with investments in neighborhood schools, clean drinking water, public libraries, and re-opening mental health clinics,” they said.
Vasquez ousted O’Connor, who is also the mayor’s floor leader, on April 2.
The Lincoln Yards proposal was changed just before the March City Council meeting to reduce the size of the mixed-use development to 14.5 million square feet and cap the height of the towers at 600 feet. In addition, the revised plan requires 600 units of affordable housing to be built on site. Originally, the plan called for only 300 units to be built on site, a plan criticized by several alderman as insufficient.
Related Midwest’s plans for a new neighborhood between the South Loop and Chinatown dubbed “The 78” have a similar affordable housing component to the Lincoln Yards plan. The proposal features 10,000 apartments and condominiums and was approved unanimously by the City Council in November.
If the 141-acre Roosevelt/Clark Tax Increment Financing Redevelopment Area (F2018-71) is approved, it would generate $700 million to build the infrastructure necessary for The 78, and require Related Midwest to set aside 2,000 units for low- and-moderate income Chicagoans.
As part of a negotiated agreement backed by planning officials and disgraced and retiring Ald. Danny Solis (25), Related Midwest agreed to set aside 500 units on site as affordable, and pay a $91.3 million fee to the city’s Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund in lieu of adding another 500 on-site units.
City officials will allow the remaining 1,000 units to be built off-site, including 500 in Pilsen or Little Village, according to the agreement. The other 500 must be built within two miles of the project, officials said.
TIF districts capture all growth in the property tax base in a designated area for a set period of time, usually 20 years or more, and divert it into a special fund for projects designed to spur redevelopment and eradicate blight.
The fine print of both new TIFs allows for up to $700 million in additional financing costs to be paid for from the financing district.
The $700 million generated by the TIF for The 78 would be used to build a new CTA station, to realign the Metra tracks, for Clark Street improvements, to extend 15th Street and to build a new river wall.
The $900 million generated by the TIF for Lincoln Yards would be used to build new bridges over the Chicago River, a new Metra station, an extension of the 606 trail, water taxis, dedicated bicycle lanes as well as potentially a light-rail transit way and extending the city’s street grid to the city’s specifications.
Aldermen will also consider a Class L tax incentive (O2019-2545) to fuel the renovation of Macy’s on State Street. Plans call for the building’s first seven floors to be renovated and the top six floors to be converted to offices as part of a $194 million project. The tax incentive would reduce the property taxes on the building by $34.7 million during the next 12 years.
In addition, aldermen are expected to approve (O2019-1398) a redevelopment agreement to build a $169 million industrial and distribution center project on 196 acres of vacant land in the 10th Ward near 116th Street and Avenue O.
The 2.26-million-square foot complex would house up to 10 different companies, including manufacturing, assembly, and distribution tenants.
The project is slated to get as much as $52 million from the area’s tax increment financing district to pay for infrastructure upgrades, environmental remediation and roadway improvements to Burley Avenue and 122nd Street.
Sarah’s Circle, an organization that serves women who are experiencing homelessness, is set to get $3.5 million from Uptown’s tax-increment financing district (O2019-1397) to help it build 38 units of supportive housing.
Funds from tax-increment financing districts would also be used for three park projects:
- Near North Park (O2019-1400) would be built on land owned by the Chicago Housing Authority near the site of the former Near North High School at 1450 N. Larabee Ave. with $3.5 million in TIF funds. The park would include a large open lawn, walking paths, a playground, plaza, and a dog park.
- Ogden Park (O2019-1401) in Englewood at 6500 S. Racine Ave. would get $3.2 million in TIF funds to build an artificial turf field and eight-lane running track.
- Douglas Park (O2019-1402) in North Lawndale at 1401 S. Sacramento Ave. would get $1.1 million for fieldhouse and swimming pool improvements and renovations. An existing turf football field on the east side of the 218-acre park would also be resurfaced.
Aldermen will also consider extending the duration of three tax-increment financing districts set to expire in 2019 for an additional 12 years to 2031:
- Goose Island — (O2019-1650) in order to build new industrial projects.
- 95th/Western — (O2019-1404) encourage new retail, commercial and mixed-use developments
- Byrn Mawr/Broadway — (O2019-1405) to to support the first phase of the Red and Purple Modernization Program, which includes improvements to the Bryn Mawr Red Line station and tracks.
The 60th and Western TIF would be extended for one year (O2019-1423) to fund the smart street light program.