Sterling Bay Lincoln Park, Halsted Landing projects advance through Chicago Plan Commission

Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Park project has drawn criticism from local Ald. Scott Waguespack for its height and parking but it still cleared the Chicago Plan Commission on Thursday.

SHARE Sterling Bay Lincoln Park, Halsted Landing projects advance through Chicago Plan Commission
Rendering of Onni Group’s Halsted Landing project in Goose Island, Chicago

Rendering of Onni Group’s Halsted Landing project in Goose Island.

Goettsch Partners

City Council’s practice of deferring to the local alderperson on developments in their ward is being challenged in Lincoln Park.

Chicago Plan Commission approved on Thursday a zoning amendment for 1840 N. Marcey St., where local developer Sterling Bay is proposing a pair of residential buildings near its $6 billion Lincoln Yards development. The development would create a combined 615 apartments, with 20% affordable.

Though applauded by local Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) and nearby residents for its inclusion of affordable housing, Waguespack opposed the project because of the buildings’ heights and the amount of parking the development would add to Marcey Street, a 21-foot-wide corridor that drew traffic concerns.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd). | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times file photo

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) opposed the proposed project at 1840 N. Marcey St. because of the buildings’ heights and the amount of parking the development would add to Marcey Street, a 21-foot-wide corridor that drew traffic concerns.

Sun-Times file photo

Crain’s Chicago Business first reported Monday how the project would be a challenge to aldermanic prerogative, the practice of alderpeople to defer to each ward’s alderperson on development matters. Waguespack told Crain’s if the project passes through Plan Commission, he’d ask colleagues on the City Council’s Zoning Committee to vote no.

“Multiple high-rises on different sites throughout this area with no transportation infrastructure improvements is going to make it very difficult for … anybody in this area to move around,” Waguespack said during the meeting. “I think it sends just a clear signal that there is no concern about the character and context of these neighborhoods and how it will get built out.”

Sterling Bay has made adjustments to the proposed development after receiving community feedback, according to Rich Klawiter, a lawyer with DLA Piper representing Sterling Bay.

The northern building — the taller of the pair — was reduced from 325 feet to 275. The southern building was reduced by 20 feet and would be 195 feet tall.

Sterling Bay also slashed the amount of parking on site by 25%, according to a presentation shared with the commission. The number of proposed parking spaces is now 275, with 615 spots for bikes.

Sterling Bay met with nonprofit neighborhood organization North Branch Works and the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce about the development, Klawiter said. Both provided letters of support for the project.

The Sterling Bay project would help reinvigorate the Clybourn Avenue Commercial District, said Joe Bergin, director of community development at the local chamber. The chamber anticipates increased foot traffic and new businesses along the corridor if the project moves forward.

“The addition of 615 new apartments will provide much-needed density to this corridor, increasing foot traffic and creating a larger pool of residents to spend dollars locally,” Bergin said. “The strategic location of the residential project near the commercial district is poised to stimulate economic growth.”

But neighborhood group Ranch Triangle Community Conservation Association isn’t on board.

President Erma Tranter said the group supports affordable, residential housing at 1840 N. Marcey St. — but not in the form of “two high-rises” that are out of scale and “too dense” for the location.

The development site was supposed to be a buffer between the towering Lincoln Yards project, Tranter said, and Sterling Bay’s development doesn’t fit that vision.

“We are going not from buffer. We are going from low-rise to high-rise in a buffer zone, which in Ranch’s analysis is just too dense and too high for that location,” Tranter said.

Over a dozen public comments were made on the project, with many backing Sterling Bay. Speakers cited a need for affordable housing in Lincoln Park and a connection to Bucktown and Wicker Park among their reasons.

Steve Simmons, director of business and economic development at North Branch Works, said the development also falls within the North Branch Framework Plan published in 2017. The project would create 3,200 construction jobs and 60 permanent jobs, Simmons said, hitting a key point of the plan.

The plan doesn’t contain any stipulations about height, Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Ciere Boatright said.

“This is just one project, but it is an intentional step forward for the plan, the site, Lincoln Park and the entire city of Chicago,” she said.

Other speakers echoed Waguespack’s concerns over parking and traffic congestion in the corridor. CTA’s Clybourn bus line is currently not operational. There are no plans to reinstate the line, according to a Chicago Department of Transportation representative.

“The CTA can barely run our buses and trains as it is,” Waguespack said. “They have put forth no effort to put a bus on Clybourn, and there won’t be for decades to come.”

Halsted Landing moves forward

The Chicago Plan Commission also approved an amendment that would pave the way for Halsted Landing, the $1.1 billion development proposed by Onni Group in Goose Island.

The Vancouver, British Columbia-based developer plans to demolish the former Tribune Media distribution center and parking lot at 700 W. Chicago Ave. and construct five mixed-use towers and three parking podiums over the course of eight years.

When complete, the project will include 2,451 apartments with 490 affordable units. The units have a weighted average of 60% of the area median income, with 45 priced in that range. Eight of the units will be priced at 40% AMI.

There will also be 1,950 parking spaces, retail and commercial space and a 280-room hotel. It will have outdoor amenities such as nearly two acres of outdoor space, a riverwalk extension and potential water taxi stop.


Rendering of Halsted Landing project.

Goettsch Partners

Paul De Santis, partner and design director at Goettsch Partners, said Halsted Landing is “very multi-tiered.” Onni plans to build the development in three phases, with phase one starting in first quarter 2029. The final phase would wrap up in 2037.

Each of the phases would include a podium and at least one tower — the tallest of which will rise 650 feet on the site’s northeast end.

The buildings will be designed with bronze tones that play to the industrial roots of the site, De Santis said.

Goettsch has outdoor space for every apartment in its designs — and “amenity belts” that wrap around each building, offering 360-degree views.

Retail would be located on the ground floor of the towers and spill out into the plaza.

The property’s outdoor space will be open to the public, according to DLA Piper partner Katie Jahnke Dale, who’s representing Onni.

John Bosca, a member of the city’s Casino Community Council, said he appreciates how Onni is taking full advantage of the site. Across Chicago Avenue from Halsted Landing is the Bally’s Casino site, which, if built, would be connected to Halsted Landing by the riverwalk expansion.

“We hope that you’ll take advantage of the river,” Bosca said during the meeting.

Steve Simmons, director of business and economic development at nonprofit neighborhood organization North Branch Works, echoed sentiments in an April letter the organization penned in support of the project. Simmons said he has confidence that Onni will work with some of its industrial neighbors.

But there’s still an “urgent need” for public transit upgrades in the corridor, Simmons said. The city’s adjacent bus lines will need more buses to accommodate the future influx of residents and visitors from the project as well as Onni’s nearby Halsted Pointe, according to North Branch Works.

“These developments provide an opportunity to be really thoughtful about adding affordable public transportation options,” Simmons said.

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