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Proposed Change Could Open Clybourn Corridor to Residential Development

By Mina Bloom | February 4, 2016 5:42am
 If the area's industrial zoning is dropped, the North Side district will become open to developers.
If the area's industrial zoning is dropped, the North Side district will become open to developers.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

LINCOLN PARK — Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) wants to remove Clybourn Corridor's industrial zoning, which would potentially turn a large swathe of industrial land on the North Side into desirable residential properties.

The move would have a huge impact on the redevelopment of the former Finkl Steel mill and surrounding industrial area along the Chicago river.

The industrial zoning "is a restriction on possibilities going forward. It doesn't mean we favor one redevelopment over another, it just means we should be open to all redevelopment at the outset of this process," Hopkins told DNAinfo Chicago.

In 1988, Clybourn Corridor became the city's first planned manufacturing district. It includes 115 acres roughly bounded by Clybourn Avenue, the Chicago river, North Avenue and Southport Avenue. Today, it's one of 15 other similar districts across the city.

The planned manufacturing district was originally created to protect high-paying industrial jobs and protect the area from pressure by developers. Although Finkl left the district, proponents of keeping the designation argue the district was a major reason why Finkl was able to grow to a point where it had to move.

Hopkins told Crain's, which was first to report the news, that he has approached the city's department of planning and development about removing the longstanding zoning designation. Crain's said the department has been "studying the issue," but didn't offer more details.

It would be an unprecedented change since no other planned manufacturing district in the city has been dropped before. But Hopkins said he's up for the challenge. 

"I am, by nature, an optimist. I believe we're going to get this done. It's not going to languish. This is going to be something that once the process does begin, it's going to pick up momentum."

Since it's such unchartered territory, Hopkins couldn't say what the process will look like or how long it will take except that neighbors and stakeholders "will be involved every step of the way."

"Some of these questions we will have to answer as we proceed. There isn't an established process that follows steps one through 10 on how to do it," he said.

"At its core, the [district] is nothing more than a zoning designation. The tradition is respected here, but as alderman, I have the authority to move forward with rezoning any parcel within my ward."

Hopkins said to expect a community meeting on the subject in the near future.

So far, developer Sterling Bay has snatched up two industrial properties near Finkl, the former Gutmann leather tannery and Lakin General tire recycling factory. C.H. Robinson, a logistics company, is leasing the Gutmann space as office headquarters. Crain's reports that Sterling Bay is also eyeing the entire 40-acre Finkl site. 

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