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City to host final round of North Branch meetings ahead of big zoning vote

Five public presentations regarding the proposed zoning changes are scheduled for the evening of July 11th

City of Chicago
A conceptual image from the City of Chicago’s North Branch Framework Plan showing the kind of dense, mixed-use development the proposed ordinance could potentially allow.
City of Chicago

Tomorrow, Chicago residents will be given an opportunity to comment on a sweeping ordinance introduced late last month to re-zone the 750-acre North Branch Industrial Corridor flanking the Chicago River between Kinzie Street and Fullerton Avenue. Co-sponsored by Mayor Emmanuel and 16 Chicago aldermen, the legislation builds off the land use recommendations of the Framework Plan approved this spring and will open the once strictly industrial area up to new sorts of development.

As currently written, the 39-page ordinance would redefine the boundaries of the corridor’s protected Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMD’s) to center mainly around Goose Island—an area that has already seen promising growth in high-tech manufacturing and office jobs. The area south of the new PMD would be essentially rezoned as an extension of downtown while the area to the north will revert to its mostly industrial, pre-PMD zoning.

Under the plan, developers looking to change the underlying zoning to non-industrial uses and/or apply for greater density would be able to do so contingent on paying special fees. Funds collected would finance local transportation upgrades, new open space, and investment in Chicago’s remaining industrial zones. “These improvements are designed around the future, especially the mixed-use business districts that attract and support the jobs of tomorrow,” said Mayor Emanuel via statement.

To discuss the proposed changes, Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development will host simultaneous public meetings tomorrow night for the five aldermanic wards (2nd, 27th, 32nd, 42nd, and 43rd) that comprise the North Branch Corridor.

A map of the proposed zoning changes.
City of Chicago

The location of each ward’s respective meeting is listed below:

2nd Ward
When: Tuesday, July 11, 2017, from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Where: City of Chicago Department of Fleet and Facility Management
1685 North Throop Street Chicago, Illinois 60642

27th Ward
When: Tuesday, July 11, 2017, from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Where: St. John Cantius
825 North Carpenter Street

32nd Ward
When: Tuesday, July 11, 2017, from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Where: Hamlin Park Fieldhouse
3035 North Hoyne Avenue

42nd Ward
When: Tuesday, July 11, 2017, from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Where: Chicago City Hall
121 North LaSalle Street Room 1003A

43rd Ward
When: Tuesday, July 11, 2017, from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Adams Fieldhouse
1919 N. Seminary Avenue

With the current ordinance slated to go before the Chicago Plan Commission for approval just ten days from today, it’s unclear if there is any room (or time) left to substantially tweak the plan to repeal PMD 1 and amend the boundaries of PMDs 2, 3, and 5. Though the question of open space within the corridor was essentially settled with the earlier approval of the Framework Plan, Alderman Michele Smith (43rd) has urged residents to attend and continue pushing for additional park and recreational space.

Smith—who was not one of the ordinance sponsors—spearheaded previous efforts that prompted the inclusion of 10 acres of open space in both the Framework Plan and the current draft ordinance. In her weekly newsletter, the Lincoln Park alderman reiterated concerns that the plan lacks any guarantee that the new park land will be contiguous. This could “lead to a patchwork of open space,” warned the elected official.

Update: A sixth public meeting has been announced at The Old Town School of Folk Music 909 W. Armitage Avenue. Also scheduled from 5:00 PM to 7:00PM on the 11th, this extra venue will present the same information as the other meetings.