Dif­fer­ent trains of thought for two big de­vel­op­ments

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - BUSINESS - By Ryan Ori

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.”

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