CITY HALL — The Plan Commission signed off on the sale of the 18-acre Fleet Management lot near Goose Island Thursday, over complaints that it was removing the only substantial tract of city-owned land in the soon-to-be-redeveloped North Branch Industrial Corridor.
The commission unanimously approved the $104.7 million sale of the lot at 1685 N. Throop St. to Sterling Bay by a voice vote with little debate, even as two aldermen questioned it.
Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) called the sale "wrong ... misguided and short-sighted," saying, "Once public land is sold it is gone forever."
Smith has persistently called for the city to set aside at least 15 acres for a major new park as part of rezoning the 760-acre North Branch Industrial Corridor to open it up to mixed-use residential developments just north and south of Goose Island. She said Thursday that the "untold tens of thousands who will be moving into the rezoned areas and adjacent areas" would have a "destabilizing" effect on surrounding areas, such as the already overtaxed Oz Park.
Smith said the North Side "will become more crowded and less livable."
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who signed off on the North Branch framework plan opening the area to redevelopment after exacting concessions calling for at least 10 acres to be set aside for recreational parks, joined Smith, saying, "In this matter, I happen to agree with her."
Ultimately, however, Hopkins granted his "conditional support" for the sale, saying, "I can't find fault" with the price or the plans for the money: moving the Fleet Management lot to Englewood, setting aside $20 million for a new Police and Fire Department training facility in Garfield Park and bolstering the city's 311 system.
Hopkins had pledged that he would get that 10 acres and more of open space through individual developments in his ward. The lot sits in the 2nd Ward and he called out Sterling Bay to make it a reality, saying he would demand "a substantial portion of open recreational space to serve the community" as part of any development on the site.
Lincoln Park resident Allan Mellis also called for the city to make the sale conditional on getting some open space included in whatever Sterling Bay does with the property, saying, "If the recreational open space commitment is going to materialize the time to start is now." He called the lot "the only significant amount of land" owned by the city in the corridor.
Smith, however, wasn't sold on those pledges, calling them a "foolish reliance on developer-driven recreational space."
David Reifman, commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development and a Plan Commission member, took issue with Smith's criticism, defending the North Branch Industrial Corridor framework plan and its accompanying zoning changes.
The commission passed the sale by a voice vote with no one expressing opposition.
Sterling Bay has been a major early player in redevelopment of the corridor, along a 3.7-mile stretch of the Chicago River between Fullerton and Kinzie avenues, most prominently also buying the Finkl Steel site.