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What's Next For Finkl Steel And Clybourn Corridor? City Moves To Chart Path

By Mina Bloom | June 7, 2016 8:30am
 Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) discussing the city's presentation before the meeting Monday.
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) discussing the city's presentation before the meeting Monday.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

LINCOLN PARK — City officials on Monday laid out a timetable for an unprecedented plan that would open up the Clybourn Corridor, including the Finkl Steel site, to more types of development beyond the industrial.

The city kicked off the six-month process with a community meeting Monday at UI Labs, 1415 N. Cherry Ave., to get neighbor feedback on a study analyzing the patterns and trends of the greater neighborhood area, or the North Branch Industrial Corridor.

Using community input, the city will develop a plan for the area beginning July 5, which will include new "land use scenarios."

In August and September, the city will present drafts of its potential "land use scenarios" to the community and gather more feedback. Also in September, the city's department of transportation will conduct traffic studies on the area, which should be complete by the summer of 2017.

A final plan for the area should be complete by early 2017.

"It is our hope that the plan would go to [the city's] Plan Commission and hopefully would be adopted by the Commission," said Eleanor Gorski, the city's deputy commissioner of planning and development.

Gorski and fellow officials from the city's department of planning and development presented the study to more than 100 neighbors Monday evening.

According to the study, the industrial corridor is very bike-, public transit- and pedestrian-oriented. People in the area are much more likely to bike or take the L to work than residents in the rest of the city, data shows.

Transportation and utilities — like ComEd facilities and truck distribution centers — are the most prevalent type of business in the area, at 34 percent. Industrial businesses are second, at 20 percent. 

The corridor is attracting development proposals that include hi-tech offices and innovative manufacturing plants, or a combination of both. 

Properties that have already been sold or are in transition of ownership are concentrated on the north and south sides of the district.

Gorski emphasized that the presentation at this first community meeting was intended to be a broad overview of potential options for the site.

"We deliberately made this presentation all-encompassing," she said. "We know there's a lot of different constituencies that have an interest. We wanted this to be a baseline of information so everyone is operating from the same starting point."

After the presentation, officials took questions from neighbors, which ranged from specific inquiries about the Finkl Steel site to whether the city plans to prioritize infrastructure improvements generally.

Residents and community leaders continue to disagree on the plan to open up the Clybourn Corridor to more types of development, and Monday's meeting was no exception. 

Some say the move would push out longtime industrial businesses and the families who depend on them, while others like Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) argue that limiting the area to industrial use doesn't fit the future of the community.

Representatives from Sterling Bay were not at the meeting. The Chicago-based developer bought a set of properties next to Finkl, and is rumored to be eyeing the entire Finkl site.

If — at least six months from now — the plan is approved, it would be the first time the city has ever removed a Planned Manufacturing District designation.

The Clybourn Corridor includes 115 acres roughly bounded by Clybourn Avenue, the Chicago River, North and Southport avenues. It became the city's first Planned Manufacturing District in 1988. Today, it's one of 15 such districts.

Clybourn Corridor isn't the only Planned Manufacturing District the city wants to update. The plan is part of a citywide initiative to reevaluate and potentially update all of the city's districts. 

Gorski said districts in Pilsen and Little Village would be next.

Residents who weren't able to attend Monday's meeting will get a second and third chance to give feedback at two additional community meetings planned for Tuesday at St. John Cantius Church, 825 N. Carpenter St., from 6-8 p.m. or Wednesday at Jesse White Community Center, 410 W. Chicago Ave., from 6-8 p.m. Residents are encouraged to RSVP online.

The study will be available online on the city's website.

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