April 28, 2023

Mega Development Along the Chicago River to Impact Chicago’s Future

By Lina Gebhardt, Sigi Perez and Catherine Torres

Lincoln Yards photo

An artist’s rendering of the Lincoln Yards development. (Photo courtesy Sterling Bay)
The year is 1875 and bubbling pots of hot and neon-hued iron are aglow along Chicago’s North Branch Industrial Corridor, previous home to Chicago’s historic North Chicago Rolling Mill Co. and A. Finkl & Sons Steel. Now long gone, steel and iron plants like Rolling Mill Co. and Finkl & Sons helped Chicago to remain the hub of the steel and iron industries, contributing to the city’s rich manufacturing history.

But nestled within the North Branch Industrial Corridor is the balloon-framed former boarding house, Chicago’s beloved bar — The Hideout.

The bar served as a hideaway spot for neighboring industrial workers to escape for a post-work drink during the repeal of Prohibition Era legislation. As the name suggests, The Hideout was an under-the-radar haven among the working class.

In recent years, The Hideout has held on despite the de-industrialization of the North Branch Industrial Corridor. The area, once an industrial hotspot, is now an example of the city’s growth.

Yet nothing scales the growth to the area to come, such as the mega-development Lincoln Yards, said Rachel Weber, Professor of Urban Planning and Development at UIC.

Juxtapose: Before/after photos of the Lincoln Park development

The 53-acre mixed-use development will neighbor several existing neighborhoods such as the affluent Lincoln Park neighborhood, Bucktown and Wicker Park. The project is led by Sterling Bay, the developers behind other well known buildings in Chicago, such as the McDonald’s Global Headquarters, One Two Pru, and Google’s Midwest Headquarters.

When asked about the impact the mega-development will have on small businesses in the area, Weber said, “The nature of that area is likely to change quite radically, indeed, if all of the things that the developer has said they want to do actually get realized,” said Weber.

The $6 billion development will completely reshape Chicago’s near-North Side, as renderings show.

“Lincoln Yards aims to build a better Chicago for everyone,” said Amanda Vaneck, Communications Manager for Sterling Bay. “In addition to creating public amenities such as 21 acres of parks and open space, an extension of The 606, over a mile of publicly accessible riverwalk, and three new river crossings to create a greater connection on both sides of the Chicago River, the development will create economic output and opportunity throughout the city.”

Since Lincoln Yards proposes a significant revitalization of the former North Branch Industrial Corridor, this raises concerns about the effect these developments will have across the city, and the impact these changes will have on small businesses such The Hideout, said Hideout patron Neil Gregus.

“As soon as something gets super developed, people get pushed out, which is unfortunate,” he said.

Big Development With a Bigger Impact?

Weber highlighted the correlation between newer developments and higher prices in the short term, but feels that a constant demand and increase in supply can potentially balance out the initial surge in value.

A Future Filled With Uncertainty

Sterling Bay is hopeful the development will appeal to all of Chicago, but residents are unsure.

In a statement by Vaneck for Sterling Bay, the developers have reiterated their commitment to unifying Chicago’s existing communities.

“While Lincoln Yards is located on the city’s North Side, the project’s benefits will extend far beyond the boundaries of the development. We aim to create a space that all Chicagoans can enjoy, uplifting the city.”

Weber said it’s hard to gauge the impact the development will bring in terms of impacting the existing disparities within Chicago’s borders.

Despite these statements, Gregus, among other residents, have voiced various concerns regarding the impacts the project will have, and are wary of the increased investments into Chicago’s North Side.

“Chicago is one of most segregated cities in the United States,” said Gregus, a Ukrainian Village resident. “Is there a reason there isn’t a Lincoln Yards happening on the South Side?”

“More money isn’t going to places that could use more development, the money is going where the money is — right in between these two, plush neighborhoods. So it’s frustrating to see that. You’d love to see more investments in undeveloped communities, where I think they could really benefit from it, versus ‘there’s River North, and here’s this new thing, and here’s this’ … And now there’s this, so it’s really frustrating.”

Chicago resident Melvin Craig said he felt the same way: “I think that if the city is going to ‘green light’ things like this, and if they’re going to encourage or incentivize developers to do work on the North Side, they [the city] should also be doing that in other parts of the city.”

Minority-Business-Enterprise and Women-Business-Enterprise say they are committed to extending job opportunities to these populations of businesses.

While it’s uncertain what impact Lincoln Yards will have on traffic flow, the development is set to improve and develop infrastructure, constructing bridges and paths to improve the accessibility of the area. The addition of public spaces, parks, and residential units will heighten Chicago’s appeal, expanding the city to new heights, developers say.

The project also has the potential to improve Chicago’s economy, with new developments in life-sciences such as the Class A Lab. Lincoln Yards could also help to strengthen small businesses and minority voices, developers say.

Lincoln yards photo

Class A Lab, Lincoln Yards. (Photo/Lina Gebhardt)
With roughly 10 years before the project is complete, according to Vaneck, the impact of the Lincoln Yards development is uncertain — but the desire to unify Chicago’s existing communities is clear. Residents like Gregus remain hopeful the city will continue to expand, serve, and invest back into all of the neighborhoods which call Chicago home.

“I hope that they keep building things, but I hope they expand the city so it feels like one Chicago,” he said. “Chicago is a great city. It’s not black-and-white, but they treat it that way. And that’s a real shame. So hopefully it keeps growing and expanding in a better direction.”

Read more: Little Village Discount Mall vendors hurt by Novak’s Decision

Bookmark the permalink.