CITY HALL — Complaints that the process was being rushed have prompted the city to push back its schedule on the North Branch Industrial Corridor Modernization Plan.
The Department of Planning and Development put out a public notice this week stating that it "plans on hosting additional community meetings prior to the May 18 meeting of the Chicago Plan Commission," when the plan is expected to be formally approved. It was previously expected to be presented for approval at the commission meeting later this month.
"It's pushed back to allow for more time for the public to review the design guidelines and the framework plan itself," department spokesman Kevin Bargnes said.
An open house on the proposal at City Hall Friday was attended for the most part by department staffers and consultants, even as Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) continued to rally public support for the plan to address the need for a major new park.
Smith put out an email to constituents this week saying that "43rd Ward residents oppose the lack of required recreational space for sports and I share that deep disappointment.
"We know this sentiment is widespread from the feedback to the city and our office," she added, citing comments from Erma Tranter, former executive director of Friends of the Parks.
"The redevelopment of the 47-acre Finkl Steel site should include a neighborhood park of approximately 10 acres," Tranter said. "Oz Park, 13 acres, is the only neighborhood-sized park in the 43rd Ward. ... Large sections of the 2nd, 32nd and 43rd wards do not have a park within a half-mile walking area required by the city's development guidelines."
Smith drew attention to how the city was extending the period for public comment to May 1. In addition to the public meetings expected to be scheduled later this month, the city is collecting email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Smith's office is doing the same at email@example.com. Residents can also post comments and review posted materials online.
City officials have repeatedly said they're loath to use eminent domain to claim a major tract of land for a new park and that instead green space should be set aside in each individual development. Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said last month the city had also ruled out converting the Fleet Management lot at 1685 N. Throop St. to a park, even as the city is accepting bids on developing the property.
It's the only major parcel of city-owned land in the North Branch Industrial Corridor, which runs along a diagonal over 3.7 miles of the Chicago River covering the immediately surrounding land between the Damen Avenue bridge and Kinzie Avenue, and including Goose Island at its center.
The North Branch Industrial Corridor is the first of 26 designated industrial corridors being updated by the city. The plan will dictate ordinances and set guidelines for development in the area for decades to come.
"It is better that it be done right rather than done quickly," said Allan Mellis of the Wrightwood Neighbors Association.