The sanctity of PMDs, or planned manufacturing districts, the zoning tool created to help develop and cultivate manufacturing jobs in Chicago, took a bit of a hit late last week, and opponents of the move fear it might set a precedent that sets off redevelopment across the city's industrial landscape. The City Council approved a ordinance to take land for a planned Ace Hotel project in Fulton Market out of one such district. Developer Sterling Bay requested an exception to the zoning designation to allow for the hotel, arguing that it's just a tiny parcel of land in a much bigger Kinzie Industrial corridor, according to Crain's. We've also heard company reps note that we should relax PMD rules on valuable city real estate, since the manufacturing jobs it was meant to protect aren't coming back. That's just the argument that worries opponents of the changes, such as Ben Spies, Director of Economic Development of the Industrial Council of Northwest Chicago (ICNC), who fears these zones, which have been successful, will be sliced up for the benefit of developers.
"It sets the precedent that these areas are up for discussion and debate," he says of the Ace Hotel move. "And the argument that PMD's aren't supporting new jobs just isn't supported by data. PMD's have created massive employment."
Spies points to the 70% job growth between 2002 and 2011 in the Kinzie Corridor as evidence that PMDs are working, with 33% job growth occurring in the relevant PMD east of Ogden, which some have said should be removed from the district to make way for more development.
"It's a total fallacy that industrial jobs aren't being created," he says. "While it's not manufacturing jobs, it's a lot of wholesaling and distribution, compatible industries that need protection."
Spies fears that by beginning to amend the use rules, even with a relatively minor change, we're "messing with a formula that works" and inviting changes in other PMDs, including the massive Finkl site that's been discussed as potential frontier for massive development.