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North Branch Corridor could open to new zoning uses by the end of the month

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The ordinance to redefine the area’s Planned Manufacturing Districts could be fully approved by July 26th

Curbed Chicago Flickr Pool/Irina Hynes

Last night, the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) hosted six simultaneous meetings to discuss the proposed ordinance to repeal or redraw the boundaries of the Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMDs) within the North Branch Industrial Corridor. Co-sponsored by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and 16 aldermen, the legislation builds off the land use recommendations put forth in the Framework Plan approved in May and is expected to open up the previous industrial 750-acre stretch along the Chicago River between Kinzie Street and Fullerton Avenue to new sorts of development.

As currently proposed, the 39-page ordinance would repeal PMD 1 and amend the boundaries of PMDs 2, 3, and 5 to focus primarily around Goose Island. Parcels in the southern portion of the corridor will be incorporated into the downtown zoning boundaries and given the designation DS-5 Downtown Service District. The northern segment of the corridor will return to its underlying zoning designations—the majority of which are still industrial.

“These properties will revert back to what was in the zoning code and on the zoning map prior to the PMDs being created,” said Patrick Murphey of the city’s Planning Department. The ordinance also provides mechanisms for developers to pursue non-industrial uses and pay into a fund for greater density. Funds collected would finance local infrastructure upgrades and investment in other protected industrial zones as designated by the city.

City officials released a rapid—albeit still tentative—timeline for getting the proposed ordinance on the books. On Thursday, July 20th the Chicago Plan Commission will review the ordinance. If approved, the plan then goes to the Joint Committee on Finance and Zoning for a vote on July 24th. If given the nod by that group, the ordinance will finally go before the full Chicago City Council for approval on July 26th.

DPD officials were on hand to discuss the ordinance and answer questions last night at City Hall—one of six locations hosting similar meetings.
Jay Koziarz

Though recent movement on the year-long process has been brisk, the DPD believes there’s still room for aspects of the ordinance to be refined. City representatives collected public comments both verbal and written at last night’s six meetings and will continue to accept feedback online at Private citizens also have an opportunity to comment at the public meetings of both the Plan Commission and the Joint Committee on Finance and Zoning.

While the previously approved Framework Plan included a requirement for a total of 10 acres of open space, the issue of park land isn’t written into the proposed ordinance. Instead, it will be up to the individual private developers to include open space in their respective projects. Taking this piecemeal approach, it’s unlikely that the corridor will see the contiguous open space necessary to support recreational fields—a public amenity championed by Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) early in the planning process.

“Looking back at the approved Framework Plan is not really the purpose of tonight’s meetings,” explained Murphey last night at the DPD’s 10th-floor City Hall office.

Current zoning [left] versus zoning proposed by the ordinance [right].