LINCOLN PARK — An alderman has called a public meeting for Thursday evening after delaying the city's sale of the Fleet Management lot near Goose Island to Sterling Bay and questioning why the winning bidder was not the highest offer.
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) has set a meeting for 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Room 120B of the DePaul University Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave., after tabling the matter in the City Council's Housing Committee earlier this week.
Though he is not a member of the committee, he asked for the delay to review the 335-page ordinance, Hopkins wrote in a letter to constituents.
"Acknowledging that this is short notice to organize a public meeting, I'm committed to ensuring an open and transparent process exists as the North Branch accommodates for future development and land use opportunities," Hopkins wrote.
On Facebook, he pointed out that the $105 million sale of the 18-acre city lot to Sterling Bay was accepted by the Department of Planning and Development even though it was well under another bid for the property by the Canadian Onni Group.
Hopkins estimated that acceptance came at "a cost of approximately $10 million left on the table."
Hopkins called on Planning Department representatives to attend the public meeting Thursday and explain why the lower Sterling Bay bid was the winner.
Department spokesman Peter Strazzabosco said Wednesday that "the city made its decision based on the guidance of a nationally recognized real-estate broker and selected the bid with the fewest contingencies, elimination of market and transactional risk, and a very short and predictable closing period, which will provide more security for Chicago’s taxpayers."
According to Strazzabosco, the Onni bid "was dependent on variables that have yet to be determined over an extended time period and could be subject to significant change, purchase-price risk and negotiation."
The city chose the bid "that offers security and efficiency versus unknowns and indefinites," he said, emphasizing the $105 million proposed sale "is the highest per-square-foot price achieved on a sale in this area to date."
Hopkins expressed reservations about the sale when it cleared the Plan Commission last month, but ultimately offered his "conditional support."
He sought time to look into it further, however, when it was added at the 11th hour to an item on the Housing Committee agenda on Monday on the purchase of a replacement property for the Fleet Management lot in Englewood.
The Fleet Management lot at 1685 N. Throop St. is the only substantial piece of city-owned land in the North Branch Industrial Corridor. Some community leaders have suggested it could be converted to a major new park as the 760-acre area along a 3.7-mile stretch of the Chicago River undergoes a transition from manufacturing to mixed-used developments including residences.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has insisted the city needs to sell the current lot to pay for the move to Englewood and a new Police and Fire Department training facility in Garfield Park.
Sterling Bay previously bought the Finkl Steel site and recently renamed the development Lincoln Yards with ambitious plans meant to potentially lure Amazon's proposed new second headquarters to Chicago.
Strazzabosco said that Hopkins would have a say on any zoning changes made to the property, no matter which bid is ultimately accepted.
The Fleet Management matter has been rescheduled before the Housing Committee to Oct. 10, which means the sale still could be approved by the full City Council at its monthly meeting the following day.