Different trains of thought for two big developments
Two of the boldest real estate developments proposed in decades are chugging toward big changes as developers grapple with the critical role of public transportation in Chicago’s growth.
As a result of neighbors’ concerns about access to the Lincoln Yards’ site on the city’s Chicago North Side, developer Sterling Bay on Tuesday said it will remove a 20,000-seat soccer stadium and several Live Nation Entertainment venues from its blueprints for the more than $5 billion mixed-use development envisioned along the Chicago River. Ald. Brian Hopkins, 2nd, had said he wouldn’t support those features.
Before that dust settled, 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell on Thursday announced her opposition to Related Midwest’s plan to build a new CTA Red Line station at Clark and 15th streets to support The 78, a proposed $7 billion mixed-use development on the river between the South Loop and Chinatown.
“What strikes me here is that transit gets pushback from both ends,” said DePaul University transportation professor Joe Schwieterman, director of the school’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development. “At Lincoln Yards, there’s a need for massively more transit. Here (along The 78), the neighborhood is pushing for the status quo.”
Outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pushed to encourage transit-oriented development along train stations and, more recently, on the city’s busiest bus lines.
Schwieterman described resistance to a Red Line station at 15th and Clark as “a real headscratcher.”
“You either push transitoriented development in the city or you don’t,” Schwieterman said.
Public transportation is a major contributor to job growth and property values in the Chicago area, according to the Metropolitan Planning Council.
Half of the new jobs created between 2005 and 2015 were located within a half-mile of a CTA or Metra station, according to the Chicago-based public policy group. More than 85 percent of commercial construction in the sevencounty area occurred within a half-mile of a train station, according to a study by the group.
Commercial property sales in Chicago the past five years also were strongly influenced by proximity to train stations.
Office buildings within a half-mile of train stations sold for an average of $252 per square foot, compared with $209 for buildings farther out, the group said, using data from CoStar Group. Apartment buildings along train stations sold for an average of $195,513 per unit, compared with $122,061 outside the half-mile ring.
Plans by Related Midwest and Sterling Bay each would create about 13 million square feet of office, residential, hotel, restaurant, retail and entertainment space.
Sterling Bay and the city are working to gain approval for as much as $900 million in tax-increment financing to build a new Metra train station on the Lincoln Yards site, add bridges across the river and make other improvements.
TIF funding was approved Friday by the city’s Joint Review Board, advancing it to the Community Development Commission.
The city also proposes creating a route on which buses or trains would run from Lincoln Yards and other formerly industrial sites along the North Branch of the river to downtown train stations.
But with those projects years away, many neighbors urged Hopkins to prevent large sports and entertainment events at Lincoln Yards.
South of the Loop, Dowell said she opposed the Red Line station because of concerns by neighbors about proximity to existing homes, as well as construction staging that would eliminate or reduce access to nearby Cotton Tail Park.
After Dowell’s announcement, Related Midwest said it plans to move the station away from CTAowned land and onto its 62-acre riverside site west of Clark.
The revised plan moves the station out of Dowell’s ward, and into Ald. Danny Solis’ 25th Ward. The Joint Review Board on Friday approved $700 million in TIF funding to cover the Red Line station and other upgrades near The 78.
Red Line trains already run beneath Related Midwest’s site, between the subterranean Roosevelt station and the above-ground Cermak station in Chinatown.
It’s unclear whether Dowell and neighbors will back Related Midwest’s revised plan.
“It’s a little too early for me to say,” Dowell said Friday. “I have to see how this new option lays out and the impact it would have east of Clark Street.”
Josh Ellis, a Metropolitan Planning Council vice president who lives in the South Loop, said he believes neighbors are open to a Red Line compromise.
“We haven’t really answered what the best way is to meet current and future transit needs in the neighborhood,” Ellis said. “We hope that’s the discussion we move forward with. There’s more development coming, and we have to meet the needs of those developments and the neighborhood.”