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Lincoln Yards planners say they hope to improve non-car connections to the site

Rendering of Lincoln Yards.

The Lincoln Yards project is an upcoming estimated $6 billion mixed-use megadevelopment straddling the north branch of the Chicago River, between North and Webster avenues. The project will consist of several high-rises that could include apartments, condominiums, offices, retail, and entertainment.

Last week, the North Branch Works community development corporation held an online panel called "The State of Development along the North Branch" to provide updates on the project. 

The speakers included:

    • Fred Krol, senior counsel and director of government and community relations with Sterling Bay, the Lincoln Yards developer
    • Zack Cupkovic, investments and special projects withR2 Companies, a private equity real estate firm
    • Sarah Wick, Vice President with the real estate company Related Midwest
    • Paul Levy from Rockwell on the River, a complex that's home to food businesses, a marina, and an events space
    • Ari Topper, managing director of Baum Realty Group
Rockwell on the River, 3057 N. Rockwell Ave.
Rockwell on the River, 3057 N. Rockwell Ave.
Rockwell on the River, 3057 N. Rockwell Ave.

Jonathan Snyder, executive director of North Branch Works, was the moderator for the event. He said North Branch Works serves the district bounded by Irving Park Road, Kinzie Street, Clyborne Avenue, and the Kennedy Expressway, covering 760 acres and encompassing three industrial corridors. Snyder said one of the advocacy goals of his organization is to attract and maintain jobs along the North Branch corridor. He added that North Branch works is advocating for zoning to accommodate housing and manufacturing uses because constituents want to live, work, and recreate in the same area.

The main discussion covered the latest developments in the area, with a particular focus on increasing the area's transportation options. Panelists highlighted the lack of CTA bus lines on Elston and Clybourn avenues, main diagonal routes that serve the corridor, as a particular problem.

The closest 'L' stations to the Lincoln Yards site are the Blue Line's Chicago, Division, and North/Damen stops, the North/Clybourn Red Line station, and the Armitage Brown Line stop but, again, the lack of connecting bus service on Elston and Clybourn means those assets aren't fully leveraged. The Clybourn stop on Metra's Union Pacific-North line and Union Pacific-Northwest line is a short walk from the site, but these lines have limited-frequency service.

New water taxi stops (blue dots on the map below) are planned. Sterling Bay is also proposing a new bus rapid transit or rail "transitway" connecting Lincoln Yards with Goose Island and the Ogilvie Center.

Screen Shot 2021-02-23 at 6.12.53 PM

A possible solution floated for the lack of transit access would be discounted, geofenced ride-hail service for patrons visiting entertainment venues in the area. That would help reduce parking demand, but it would increase vehicle miles traveled compared to better non-car transportation access.

Community feedback for Lincoln Yards Project reveals that people want plentiful public green space in the development. Sterling Bay's Krol said the developer responded by allocating 21 acres of new parkland.

As far as an equity component for the projects, Rockwell on the River marketing director Jeff DeLong said they are reaching out to entrepreneurs of color to encourage them to open businesses in the area.

Lincon Yarks has a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion advisory council to assist with outreach on affordable housing opportunities at the development. Sterling Bay also plans to use Hire 360 to recruit businesses and workers of color to help build the project.

The developer also promises to work with the city of Chicago to make Lincoln Yards walkable and bikable, including making it easier to connect with neighboring communities. Plans call for extending the Bloomingdale Trail elevated greenway east to the site, as well as creating new connections to existing bike lanes on Clybourn, Elston, and Armitage.

We'll have more details on bike and pedestrian proposals for Lincoln Yards later this week.

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