Lincoln Yards clears another hurdle with zoning committee approval

CHICAGO — The divisive “Lincoln Yards” development proposal took a major step forward Thursday.

The city council’s zoning committee approved the project by a 9-4 vote.

The $6 billion plan would be built along the Chicago River, between Lincoln Park and Bucktown.

The committee’s acting chairman, alderman James Cappleman, started the hearing by announcing he was putting off the vote.  But, the panel overrode him.

Prior to the vote, supporters and opponents expressed their views for hours.

Critics say the project would bring serious congestion, and towers that would dwarf the rest of the community.

Protesters showed up Thursday morning at City Hall calling the proposed Lincoln Yards project a sweetheart deal between the developer and the mayor, and say it stinks of corruption.

They want to know why a billion dollars of taxpayer money is being used and want the vote delayed, saying there’s no reason to rush the project. But, proponents of the development say it’s not being rushed.

Alderman Brian Hopkins said the developers have been persuaded to make changes like capping how tall the buildings can be, and how much land can be developed. He says there is language in the proposal to hold the developers accountable and a requirement to hold annual community meetings about traffic, and that this process has worked how it was supposed to in a democracy.

The zonig committee approved the  slimmed-down plan that allows for buildings no taller than 600 feet, develops less commercial space, and creates more affordable housing units than the original proposal.

The park that’s being proposed will be up to the park district standards, but it’s still not clear whether it will be public or private. As for the affordable housing being offered, opponents say a studio apartment will still cost $890 per month.

In a statement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said:

While the City Council was deliberating Lincoln Yards today, thousands of South Side residents and shoppers turned out to open the first grocery store to operate in Woodlawn in more than 40 years. It was yet another sign of Woodlawn’s resurgence, as well as a tribute to a proud community’s perseverance. Similarly, Lincoln Yards will transform abandoned industrial land into an economic and job creation engine for decades to come. These two actions, taken together, demonstrate clearly that this city of neighborhoods is also one city with one future—and remains open for growth, jobs, and community development.

The plan advances to the finance committee and ultimately, the full City Council.

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