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City creates community councils to guide development at Lincoln Yards, The 78

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Volunteers can apply online

A rendering of The 78, the massive mixed-use megaproject proposed for the south branch of the Chicago River.
Related Midwest

The debates over zoning and controversial TIF subsidies for the Lincoln Yards and The 78 megadevelopments are over, but city officials have decided they still want to hear from neighbors when it comes to the decades-long process of building both massive mixed-use projects.

Last week, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the creation of two community advisory councils that will work the developers and local aldermen representing each project. The groups will be made up of neighborhood volunteers, community leaders, design professionals, and subject-matter experts. Suggestions will be made on an “advisory basis” and implemented into the projects “where possible,” according to a statement from Lightfoot’s office.

The 14-member Lincoln Yards Community Advisory Council will provide suggestions to Sterling Bay regarding its $6 billion, 53-acre development over the next three years. The North Branch megaproject has zoning for 14 million square feet of new commercial and residential development. It includes 21 acres of park space, an extension of the 606 trail, a restored street grid, and new bridges over the Chicago River. Youth soccer fields opened at Lincoln Yards this summer, and environmental clean-up efforts continue.

Meanwhile, The 78 Community Advisory Council will have 17 members and will collaborate with developer Related Midwest on its 62-acre, 13 million-square-foot Near South Side project. The transformative $7 billion development includes a university-affiliated innovation center and 12 acres of open space, and the plan is expected to take 20 years to complete. A Wells-Wentworth road extension is already under construction at The 78 and the site’s planned Red Line subway station recently won the approval of the Chicago Plan Commission.

The two CAC groups will convene quarterly, beginning in early 2020. Community volunteers interested in joining the Lincoln Yards Community Advisory Council and The 78 Community Advisory Council can submit an online application to the city.

In addition to the formation of the two advisory bodies, City Hall planners have also introduced new Master Planned Development guidelines that will bring additional layers of community engagement and oversight when it comes to upcoming, yet-to-be-approved megadevelopments.

Under consideration by the Chicago Plan Commission, the revised rules would require at least one city-initiated community meeting before a zoning application is filed, an internal meeting with city planners to review proposed changes pursuant to community input, a community meeting to present those changes, and one or more follow-up community meetings after the zoning application is filed.

If approved, the guidelines would apply to proposed megaprojects including the multiphase redevelopment of the former Michael Reese Hospital site in Bronzeville, the massive One Central high-rise project proposed just west of Soldier Field, and the long-awaited redevelopment of the vacant U.S. Steel South Works site on Chicago’s Far South Side.