Lincoln Yards proposal faces key vote as opponents call for delay

CHICAGO — The massive Lincoln Yards project is coming up for a crucial City Council vote Tuesday, but some groups and aldermen want to put the brakes on the development until after Chicago's upcoming elections.

Lincoln Yards has been applauded and criticized ever since it was proposed in January, and both sides made their comments public Tuesday at City Hall. The measure is expected to pass during a Community Development Commission meeting, and will go on to the Finance Committee next.

Lincoln Yards is roughly 22 acres along the eastern portion of the Chicago River in Lincoln Park. Under the current plan, developer Sterling Bay would receive $900 million in Tax Increment Funding (TIF) money to build it, although more than half would go towards infrastructure projects.

Second Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins, who represents the area where Lincoln Yards will be built, supports the project.

"The $500 million is spent on public infrastructure: three new bridges, a variety of new roads and an intersection repair that is desperately needed," Ald. Hopkins said Tuesday.

Hopkins previously opposed the plan, when it included a soccer stadium and music venues owned by concert giant Live Nation. After facing opposition from neighbors and local venue owners from across Chicago, both were dropped from the plan. Hopkins later endorsed it.

The plan still has its critics, including a group of community leaders, and former and present elected officials who say the TIF money should be spent on programs where it’s needed more.

"The City, through Mayor Emanuel’s office is literally giving away tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, at a time when this city is struggling and living through a tale of two cities," said Alderman Scott Waguespack (D-32nd Ward).

Protestors feel Lincoln Yards is being fast-tracked, and are urging the committee to wait until a new mayor and new City Council is elected in 60 days.

"It is not too much to ask that we allow the people to have a voice in deciding whether we should have the current Lincoln Yards proposal, which will last for decades in the 21 century," UIC Political Science Professor Dick Simpson said.

There are several businesses that support what Lincoln Yards would bring to the city.

"We can’t say no to 24,000 jobs and we can’t say no to 10,000 construction jobs," said Jaime Dipaulo, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

If Lincoln Yards gets approval Tuesday and in the finance committee, it will eventually land in the council’s zoning committee.

Alderman James Cappleman took over that committee after scandal-ridden alderman Danny Solis resigned. Cappleman said the project needs more on-site affordable housing and off-site affordable housing to pass the zoning committee, something developer Sterling Bay seems willing to do.

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