In a tense meeting, community members urged the developers of Lincoln Yards to slow down on plans for the sprawling development Thursday night.
Community members showed up in droves, packing the Park Community Church to hear the updates Sterling Bay made to its $5 billion, 20-acre project along the Chicago River — those plans were unveiled in July.
During a sometimes intense three hours of public comment on the project, residents questioned plans for an entertainment district and the proposed Tax Increment Financing district for the area as well as the pacing for the project and its timeline. Members of the audience would boo and yell responses to the developers, sometimes yelling questions over them or pressing them to answer questions.
Sterling Bay did not answer whether they’d walk away from the project if they didn’t receive TIF financing.
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said the process will not “be attached to a political calendar.”
“As long as there are new questions presented, I’m going to keep this process open until we get to the point where the questions have been sufficiently answered … ,” Hopkins said.
He added, “To say that it hasn’t been an open process, to say that it hasn’t been an inclusive process or to say that it’s been rushed is simply untrue.”
Douglas Voigt, with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, said that concerns brought up in July were taken into consideration and updates were made to “encourage a walkable and bikeable community.” Nearly 40 percent of the site will be “publicly accessible space.” There will be one signature tower that’s 650 feet tall and a cap of 5,000 residential units.
Fears of a deal with Live Nation displacing the indie music scene have caused smaller music venues, like the Hideout and Subterranean, to come together to try to slow the development.
At a news conference before the community meeting, those venues, which together form the Chicago Independent Venues League, unveiled their recommendations for the plans, chief among them being to “slow down” and “listen to everyone.”
When asked about the entertainment district that would come in, Dean Marks, the general counsel for Sterling Bay, said in an exchange with Robert Gomez, co-chair of the coalition and owner of Subterranean and Beat Kitchen, that the specifics of the deal are “yet to be determined.”
If the city doesn’t listen to their concerns, that won’t stop the new coalition, Gomez said.
“We’re just asking to sit at the table and talk about what needs to be done and what should be done,” Gomez said. “We’re going to keep pounding at this until we start getting answers — they gotta reveal it at some point, maybe after they build it they’ll tell us what they’re doing … but some time before then we should know what’s going on.”