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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

The Battle For Lincoln Yards: New Map Takes Megadevelopment From The Alderman Who Fought To Build It

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) says adding Lincoln Yards to his ward would make the community more "contiguous." Hopkins called that "utter nonsense."

Lincoln Yards along the Chicago River, between Lincoln Park and West Town, as seen on Dec. 2, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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BUCKTOWN — A proposed ward map unveiled at a special City Council meeting Wednesday would move the future site of the Lincoln Yards mega-development into the 32nd Ward, out of the control of longtime supporter Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd).

Put forward by the City Council Rules Committee with heavy influence from the Black Caucus, the new map would give control of the area to Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), a vocal critic of the development.

The proposal would extend the 32nd ward east to include the controversial $6 billion development along the North Branch of the Chicago River, situated between Bucktown and Lincoln Park. Lincoln Yards received $1.3 billion in city subsidies in April 2019 after a drawn out City Council fight.

Hopkins vowed to fight to keep the site in his ward Wednesday, arguing he’s the right person to steward “a billion dollars” of public infrastructure projects associated with the development over the finish line.

Those include a new Metra station, bridges, and an extension of the 606 bike trail.

“It’s a promise that needs to be kept to the voters, it’s a promise that needs to be kept to the residents. And I view my job to make sure that promise is kept,” he said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) speaks before he, roughly 40 residents and the 14th Police District went a safety walk through Wicker Park in light of an uptick in crime on Oct. 19, 2021.

But speaking on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” Tuesday, Waguespack said Lincoln Yards should be returned to his control because the area was part of the 32nd Ward prior to the last remap.

“This literally draws the lines back to where they were,” Waguespack said.

Waguespack told Block Club Wednesday the area should be seen as “a comprehensive community area, a whole area, as it was in the past. It really just got carved out in that last map … it was essentially sort of carved out at the last second by a handful of people.”

“The impact and the way we were working on it for several years was as a sort of overall community area there, so that’s how we’ve been looking at it for a long time,” he said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) speaks at a City Council meeting on Sept. 14, 2021.

Hopkins said that argument “made no sense at all.”

“All you have to do is put a version of the 32nd Ward with and without Lincoln Yards next to each other and you’ll see that answer is utter nonsense,” he said. “I don’t know that anyone has actually gotten Ald. Waguespack to honestly answer that question: Why does he want Lincoln Yards?”

An alternate map released by the Latino Caucus in October and backed by Hopkins would keep Lincoln Yards in the 2nd ward. Hopkins said Wednesday he’ll continue to support that version, which could end up in a public referendum next year if alderpeople can’t find a compromise in the coming months.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot Wednesday twice refused to say whether she believed Lincoln Yards should be drawn into Waguespack’s 32nd ward, or remain in Hopkins ward on an unrelated press call after the Council meeting.

“The thing I care about Lincoln Yards is they need to get to work,” she said. “I want to see them deliver on the promises they made to the residents of the city, particularly when it comes to necessary infrastructure work.”

The battle for control over that territory comes after a collective of local music venues demanded last week Lincoln Yards be drawn out of the 2nd Ward.

Venue owners have organized against the development 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.

Credit: Jonathan Ballew / Block Club Chicago
Those opposed to TIF funding for the Lincoln Yards development held a press conference before the Plan Commission vote in January 2019.

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.

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