LINCOLN PARK — Neighbors are split on a Sterling Bay plan to build two high-rises with over 600 apartments near Lincoln Yards.
Sterling Bay developers presented their plans for the towers — one 27 stories and the other 16 — at 1840 N. Marcey St. during a community meeting Monday. The development is one of three nearby proposals from Sterling Bay that are not a part of the Lincoln Yards megadevelopment and would require a zoning change.
Many longtime neighbors opposed the Marcey Street towers, saying the high-rises were out of scale with the area and would exacerbate traffic congestion. Several others praised its amenities for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Former Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) also attended Monday to share her disapproval, accusing Sterling Bay of using the projects to generate buzz for their firm as they try to attract new investors for the $6 billion Lincoln Yards megadevelopment, which has faced significant delays.
The two high-rises are in Ald. Scott Waguespack’s 32nd Ward and near Smith’s former ward.
Waguespack, who co-hosted Monday’s meeting with the RANCH Triangle Association, did not take a stance on the project.
Sterling Bay’s proposal includes the two high-rises and some open green space that’s going to be accessible to the public, said Chris Pemberton, president of Solomon Cordwell Buenz, the architecture firm on the project.
If approved, the taller tower on the north side of the lot will have 300 apartments across 20 floors, according to Sterling Bay’s presentation. Each floor will have 15 apartments with an average size of 747 square feet, officials said.
The remaining six floors will include amenities, retail and 206 parking spaces, according to the presentation.
The south tower will be curved to create space for an open lawn in front of the two properties, Pemberton said. That high-rise will have another 308 apartments spread across 14 floors.
Each floor will have 22 apartments averaging 780 square feet, according to the presentation. The two non-residential floors will have retail spaces and a lobby.
Of the 608 apartments, 92 of them will be affordable. Sterling Bay is paying more than $4.5 million to the city’s Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund in lieu of providing the full number of on-site affordable units required under city ordinance, officials said.
Another 154 parking spaces will be underground, according to the presentation. The development will also have about 600 bike parking spots.
A small road would be built in between the two high-rises that connects Marcey and Kingsbury streets, said Michael Worthman, a representative from KLOA Inc., a traffic, transportation and parking consultant firm. This connecting street will be used for drop-off and pickup activity to keep the traffic off of main streets.
The project also comes with improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists, including:
- A traffic signal at the intersection of Clybourn Avenue and Wisconsin Street, including pedestrian countdown timers.
- Improved crosswalks and ADA ramps at the intersection of Clybourn and Clifton avenues.
- Enhanced ADA ramps and high-visibility crosswalks at the intersections of Marcey Street and Clifton Avenue, Marcey Street and Wisconsin Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue and Kingsbury Street.
- Widened sidewalks surrounding the perimeter of the high-rises’ site.
“All of this will greatly improve access and circulation, particularly for pedestrians and bicyclists trying to get into this area and through that area,” Worthman said. “We’re trying to distribute that traffic and minimize circulation while taking advantage of public transporation and alternative modes of transportation in the area.”
The Marcey Street towers are among three high-rises Sterling Bay has proposed near Lincoln Yards. The developer also is proposing a nine-story building at 2100 N. Southport Ave. and a 25-story tower at 2013-33 N. Kingsbury Ave.
At the same time, Lincoln Yards is in financial distress after failing to find tenants for the development and the decrease in Sterling Bay’s property values, Smith said. Crain’s Chicago Business reported in June that Sterling Bay was looking for a bailout in the $6 billion project.
“Failing a bailout thus far, Sterling Bay has started to promote plans on their other properties that are not part of the planned development,” Smith said. “These plans, none of which have been approved by City Council, are no doubt intended to try to build ‘buzz’ for Lincoln Yards and to try to attract new master investors.”
Lincoln Yards and the surrounding Cortand and Chicago River TIF district, which includes the three proposals from Sterling Bay, should not be developed until the terms of Lincoln Yards and the TIF can be renegotiated “for the benefit of the city,” Smith said.
Julie Goudie, director of communications for Sterling Bay, said the firm was “aware of [Smith’s] long-standing bias against Sterling Bay that dates back before the North Branch Framework’s approval” in 2017.
“As a private citizen, she is entitled to her own opinion,” Goudie said.
Smith attended Monday’s meeting and asked whether any of Sterling Bay’s three proposals outside Lincoln Yards had secured financing yet. Sterling Bay leaders declined to comment on anything outside of 1840 N. Marcey St. — the focus of Monday’s meeting — and said the two high-rises had no financing at this time.
Several neighbors said the Marcey Street project was too big for the surrounding community and that local streets wouldn’t be able to handle the increased traffic from an influx of residents.
“Clybourn has become a thoroughfare turned into a parking lot, and Cortland as well,” said one neighbor. “This is going to create a burden on our streets, … and I don’t think this scale is appropriate for this community.”
Other neighbors agreed and said the project needs more parking spaces.
But many neighbors supported it, including one resident who said she doesn’t have a car.
“This area is very car-oriented, and I walk down here and there’s hardly anybody walking on the streets,” she said. “I think from what was presented today, it does seem like it would actually feel safer to me walking around this neighborhood.”
Another supporter said she appreciated the added density the towers would bring, but she wants Sterling Bay to include all of its affordable housing on-site, rather than contributing to the city fund.
Wagusepack closed the meeting by saying his office will continue to work with the city’s Department of Planning and Development and local neighborhood organizations to make adjustments to the plan.
“All your issues do have a concern to us,” Waguespack said.
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