The Real Deal Chicago

Sterling Bay’s massive Lincoln Yards project confronts alderman’s ire

Ald. Brian Hopkins said despite public plans for the 70-acre project, nothing has been approved
By John O'Brien | May 18, 2018 10:00AM

A rendering of Sterling Bay and Live Nation’s entertainment venue in Lincoln Yards and Alderman Brian Hopkins

Sterling Bay’s plan to transform its Lincoln Yards property at the North Branch of the Chicago River into a massive mixed-use complex has a new obstacle to overcome: the local alderman.

Ald. Brian Hopkins said in an email to constituents that despite what they might have heard “about future development plans in the North Branch,” nothing has been approved for the corridor.

“I’m writing to tell you that as of today, no proposal has been formally submitted or reviewed by my office, and public meetings to solicit community feedback have yet to be scheduled. Nothing has been granted approval (not even preliminary approval),” and no substantive discussions held, he wrote.

Without mentioning its name, the email was a shot across the bow of Sterling Bay, the Chicago developer that on Thursday was touting its new partnership with Live Nation for up to five entertainment venues in the 70-acre development that will straddle the North Branch of the Chicago River.

Sterling Bay also recently announced it was bringing in Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts as the majority owner of a United Soccer League team that would play in a 20,000-seat stadium in Lincoln Yards.

And the developer scored another victory recently when it settled a dispute with a railroad company in the project area, apparently removing a hurdled to its plan to extend The 606 trail to Lincoln Yards.

Representatives for Sterling Bay did not respond to requests for comment on the alderman’s email. An aide to Hopkins was unavailable to comment further.

In the email, the alderman said he has instructed the developers to “prepare and present a detailed, comprehensive set of plans, and that no public meeting will be scheduled until such tasks are complete.”

Hopkins’ email was noteworthy in light of a statement Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave as part of the Sterling Bay-Live Nation announcement on Thursday talking about the “unprecedented amount of enthusiasm for promising projects springing up on the banks of the Chicago River.”

But it is Hopkins’ opinion of the Lincoln Yards project that could matter the most under the longstanding tradition of aldermanic privilege, in which an alderman has final say over projects in his or her ward.

And Hopkins recently lent his voice to the call for a 24-acre park in the North Branch corridor, which goes against the mayor’s vision for the area and is not included in plans revealed so far by Sterling Bay for Lincoln Yards.

The development, pitched as potential site for Amazon’s second headquarters, is planned for a mostly industrial stretch along the river near the corner of Cortland Street and Southport Avenue. It includes the former A. Finkl & Sons steel plant property.

Sterling Bay has said the massive mixed-use project also would include residential, retail and office space; hotels and restaurants; a six-acre park and The 606 expansion.

In his email, Hopkins list priorities for the corridor that include open space, public transportation, congestion mitigation and economic development.