BUCKTOWN — A collective of independent Chicago music venues wants the future Lincoln Yards development drawn out of the city’s 2nd Ward during the remap process currently underway at City Hall.
Lincoln Yards is represented in Chicago’s City Council by Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who has long supported the mega-development.
The Chicago Independent Venue League, or CIVL, issued a statement last week calling for the site to be taken out of Hopkins’ control, in part to protect local businesses and residents the group said could be negatively impacted by the development.
“It’s kind of like having the fox watch the hen house, right?” said Katie Tuten, co-owner of the Hideout bar and venue that sits at the edge of Lincoln Yards, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave.
“It was Ald. Hopkins who was pushing for the development, so it might be beneficial to the citizens of Chicago to have someone who might have a more watchful eye,” said Tuten, who is also the co-chair of CIVL.
Lincoln Yards is a controversial $6 billion development along the North Branch of the Chicago River, situated between Bucktown and Lincoln Park. The project received $1.3 billion in city subsidies in April 2019 after a drawn out City Council fight.
Local venue owners have organized against it since 2018, when Lincoln Yards developer Sterling Bay announced mega-promoter Live Nation would operate a $5 billion “entertainment district” at the site.
Local venue owners across the city protested the plan, saying Live Nation’s presence would negatively impact independent performance spaces and businesses in Chicago.
After months of pushback, the Live Nation plan was scrapped in early 2019, along with a planned soccer stadium.
At the time, Hopkins said the proposed mega-venue would be replaced by “restaurants, theaters and smaller venues that will be scattered throughout the site,” none of which would have Live Nation ownership.
Hopkins reiterated Tuesday that Live Nation would not have an ownership stake in any Lincoln Yards venue, despite rumors to the contrary, but said that doesn’t mean they might not have some involvement in the development.
“They were originally going to be a vested owner, and that’s been changed. Now what that means going forward to things like booking, artist management, will Live Nation artists eventually be able to play at Lincoln Yards venues, all that I think remains to be determined,” Hopkins said. “As much as the independent venues don’t like Live Nation, it’s a multi-billion dollar international conglomerate, and it’s beyond the purview of one alderman to completely eliminate them from the city.”
Hopkins said the recent criticism from CIVL is just an “effort…to prevent the deal from going forward.”
“At this point, the agreement has been signed, it’s a contractual relationship between the city of Chicago and the developers to construct this project, so they can’t unring that bell as much as they’d like to,” he said.
CIVL “made some requests during the negotiations, they got what they wanted, and I think they need to stand by that now,” he said.
As alderpeople work to propose and pass a new city ward map this week, Lincoln Yards remains a sticking point in the increasingly contentious process.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) told the Daily Line last week that he’d submitted a map proposal that would put Lincoln Yards in his ward.
Waguespack said it “would be appropriate” to shift his upside-down-U-shaped ward east to the river to make it more “compact and contiguous,” the Daily Line reported.
But Hopkins refuted that notion, telling the Daily Line that “stewardship of that process is still very much on the table, and I didn’t go through that whole fight to pass Lincoln Yards to walk away from it and not ensure that promise is kept.”
“Frankly, I have not heard a single reason offered by any of my colleagues that Lincoln Yards should be taken out of the ward I represent. I know they’re trying to do it, but nobody’s told me what the motive is,” Hopkins said Tuesday.
Under the yet-to-be-released map proposal, the second ward would move east, losing portions of West Town and Ukrainian Village, but it is unclear if Hopkins will keep the Lincoln Yards site or if it will be moved into Waguespack’s ward.
“There’s over a billion dollars of public benefits connected to Lincoln Yards, a new Metra station, three new bridges across the river, a 606 bike trail extension, intersection and road improvements, the park. All of those promises need to be kept. My job is to make sure those promises are kept. That’s why I want to keep Lincoln Yards,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins said he’s had no conversations with Sterling Bay about the remap process, and that it would be “inappropriate” for them to be involved.
City Council has until Wednesday to approve a new ward map with at least 41 votes. If it’s approved with anything less than that supermajority, any 10 council members who didn’t support the proposal can back a competing map to send to voters in a referendum next year.
Contributing: Justin Laurence
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