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Sweeping Zoning Changes For North Branch Corridor Approved By City Council

By Ted Cox | July 26, 2017 4:02pm
 The City Council approved sweeping zoning changes for an area on the North Branch of the Chicago River.
The City Council approved sweeping zoning changes for an area on the North Branch of the Chicago River.
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C.H. Robinson

CITY HALL — The City Council signed off Wednesday on sweeping zoning changes for the North Branch Industrial Corridor.

The changes basically throw open the areas immediately north and south of Goose Island to mixed-use developments, including residential high-rises previously banned in what had been a manufacturing district.

The zoning changes cleared the Council by a final vote of 46-2 after being passed by a joint Finance and Zoning Committee meeting Monday. Only Aldermen Michele Smith (43rd) and Scott Waguespack (32) voted against.

Smith, who has stated for months that a major park should be a part of large-scale plans for the area, argued against the measure and unleashed a blistering series of tweets while the matter was before the Council.

Saying it invited a "land rush" along the 760-acre, 3.7-mile stretch of land on the Chicago River between Fullerton and Kinzie avenues, Smith said it did not take into account the thousands of new residents expected to flood the area in the years to come and how they will affect already overtaxed parks and traffic congestion.

Local resident Allan Mellis also cited increased traffic congestion as a concern, and said standards should be created for the percentage of public land to be set aside in any major new development.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, however, cheered passage, having submitted the changes just a month ago based on recommendations in the North Branch Industrial Corridor Modernization Plan.

"We figured out a way to take an area and make it work for the entire city, not just one neighborhood or one part of the city," Emanuel said. Citing 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins in his remarks on the Finkl Steel site, Emanuel added that the rezoning would create "thousands of jobs" and increased property taxes in "an area that has been laying fallow."