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Finkl Steel Site Shouldn't Become Homes, Community Leader Says

By Mina Bloom | April 7, 2016 6:51am
 The demolition of Finkl Steel
The demolition of Finkl Steel
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

LINCOLN PARK — The city says it's open to removing the Clybourn Corridor's industrial zoning designation, which is concerning for Mike Holzer, executive director for community group North Branch Works, and other proponents of the corridor's Planned Manufacturing District.

"This is not the outcome we've been looking for," Holzer said. 

If the unprecedented plan is approved by the City Council, homes, retail and offices — not just industrial businesses — could be built in the Clybourn Corridor district, which includes 115 acres roughly bounded by Clybourn Avenue, the Chicago River, North and Southport avenues.

It would be the first time the city has ever removed a Planned Manufacturing District designation. Clybourn Corridor is one of 15 such districts.

For many reasons, Holzer and members of his organization, which has long fought to protect industrial jobs in the area, believe the area should stay industrial. The group conducted a two-year market analysis of the former Finkl Steel site, which culminated in a 158-page report.

Holzer said he learned of the city's stance when he met with officials last week, which was "a hard meeting to sit through."

That's partly because he strongly believes residential development shouldn't "be part of the mix." 

By putting homes next to heavy industry, Holzer said, you're exposing residents to industrial businesses, which "operate around the clock."

"That's the main reason we continue to oppose residential on the site," he said.

The other issue is the long-term effect homes and other commercial properties might have on the district's more than 400 industrial businesses and 10,000 jobs, Holzer said. He said once other types of development move in, industry might get pushed out altogether.

"If you're looking at it from the perspective of a 70-year-old company that has gone through three generations of family ownership and has a committed workforce — and there's a number of those out there — then this is not necessarily good news," he said. 

Holzer said industrial businesses are already feeling the impact of the news. 

"Businesses need a stable environment, both economic and physical, in order to operate. When you throw in chaos and uncertainty into the mix, they go crazy. That's what's happening here," Holzer said.

On the other side of the issue is Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who was the one to bring the plan to the city. He firmly believes the industrial zoning is out of step with the future of the community. 

A community meeting is set for May 3 at DePaul University. The alderman's office plans to announce more details soon.