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City Hosts First North Branch Industrial Corridor Modernization Meeting

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An upcoming land use plan will guide the future of riverfront corridor

Yesterday evening, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) hosted a meeting at the new Goose Island UI Labs facility to discuss one of the North Side’s most significant opportunities for urban planning in recent years: the modernization of the North Branch Industrial Corridor. While the vacant 28-acre site that once housed the former A. Finkl & Sons steel company has been the source of much development speculation, the scope of the DPD’s plans extend to the entire North Branch Industrial Corridor which stretches from Kinzie Street to the north of Fullerton Avenue. Also recognizing that the zone in question does not exist in a vacuum, the DPD cast an even broader net by extending the boundary of the study area one half-mile beyond the North Branch Industrial Corridor in all directions.

Roughly 82 percent of the North Branch Corridor exists within a Planned Manufacturing District (PMD) zoning designation and, despite previous talk of disbanding or amending said district, the immediate priority of the city planners is to establish a land use plan for the area. The plan will take into account current uses as well as trends such as growth in the high-tech office and manufacturing sectors in areas such as Goose Island. Understanding current and future land use has been deemed necessary before the city enacts any sort of wholesale zoning changes across the expansive riverfront parcel.

While the presentation was data-driven to help get the public, private stakeholders, and the city on the same page when it came to things like transportation utilization and traffic, a Q&A session allowed residents to voice personal concerns and recommendations for the future of the North Branch Industrial Corridor. "People are going to have opinions but they need to be grounded in reality and that was the goal of tonight," explains 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins, whose ward encompasses a prominent portion of the corridor.

"We looked at it the way an urban planner would look at it. We were shown data. These are objective facts and it's hard to argue about objective facts. It’s really helpful to start from a baseline," the city councilman continued. "The community will have a variety of opinions and some of them will be contradictory: retail versus non-retail, residential versus no residential, keeping the PMD or allowing for additional growth. People are debating this right now and it’s a healthy debate."

The tentative timeline for the DPD’s forthcoming plan is relatively brisk. The department will begin developing future land use scenarios based on collected public feedback in July and will present their findings for further discussion in August. A final land use plan is expected to go before the City of Chicago’s Plan Commission for approval in the first quarter of 2017. Meanwhile, a transportation plan for the corridor is being formulated in tandem by Chicago’s Department of Transportation and is anticipated to be finalized in the summer of 2017.

For those who were unable to attend last night’s meeting, the same presentation from DPD is scheduled for this evening at 6:00 PM at St. John Cantius Church located at 825 N. Carpenter Street. A third meeting will take place tomorrow, June 8th, at Jesse White Community Center at 410 W. Chicago Ave. Individual links to RSVP for these meetings can be found here.

The DPD is also encouraging additional public engagement via an innovative online mapping tool. Dubbed "sMap," the program allows users to take a hands-on approach to urban planning by marking a map of the North Branch Industrial Corridor with trouble areas and recommendations for the future. A July 5th deadline for sMap submissions has been set so feedback can inform the next round of public meetings.