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City Hall delays controversial TIF votes for Lincoln Yards, The 78 megaprojects

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Lawmakers will have more time to review the tax increment financing for the riverfront megadevelopments

A rendering of Lincoln Yards
Sterling Bay

Facing pressure from Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot and an incoming class of adversarial aldermen, the City Council’s Finance Committee postponed votes supporting $2 billion in tax increment financing (TIF) for the Lincoln Yards and The 78 megadevelopments.

Lightfoot made repeated calls to slow down what some have described as a rushed approval process for both riverfront projects. She urged the Finance Committee to use Monday’s meeting as “a subject matter hearing to address major concerns about Lincoln Yards and The 78 on the record and in public view” instead of cast votes for or against the controversial TIF measures, reported Crain’s.

Moments before Monday’s meeting was set to start, departing Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued an official statement saying he would honor his successor’s wish to push back the vote:

“In our first meeting, as well as in subsequent conversations, I made it very clear to the mayor-elect that I would not move forward on these projects if she wanted to delay the process. While I firmly believe in the value of these projects to the entire city, out of respect for her wishes and request, I will honor my commitment and delay the vote. I am hopeful that under the mayor-elect’s leadership of the new City Council these critical projects will move forward and bring the kind of investment and job creation that has been a hallmark of the past eight years.”

Despite Emanuel’s declaration, Monday’s City Hall meeting began under a cloud of uncertainty when Alderman Brian Hopkins, whose 2nd Ward contains the Lincoln Yards project, told reporters that he still expected the votes to occur today and the measures to pass.

Finance Committee Chairman and 40th Ward Alderman Pat O’Connor, however, ultimately agreed to hear testimony regarding the proposed TIF districts for Lincoln Yards and The 78, but defer the votes until Wednesday morning—just before the regularly scheduled meeting of the Chicago City Council. The revised date is still well before Mayor-elect Lightfoot and a growing number of anti-TIF aldermen are set to take office on May 20.

As proposed, the TIF measures would freeze real estate taxes at their current levels and reimburse the developers for fronting the costs of infrastructure improvements with the incremental tax revenue generated by the completed projects over the next two decades.

For Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards development, slated for vacant industrial land between Lincoln Park and Bucktown, city planners have called for $1.3 billion in TIF spending to cover improvements including new bridges over the Chicago River, an extension of the 606 trail, and a realignment of the troublesome Elston-Armitage-Ashland intersection.

The 78, Related Midwest’s Near South Side megadevelopment, would be supported by $700 million from the new Roosevelt/Clark TIF district to build streets, relocate a set of Metra tracks running through the site, and construct a new $300 million CTA Red Line subway station at the southwest corner of Clark and 15th streets.

The 78 and Lincoln Yards respectively won zoning approval from the city last winter and this spring. Only two sets of TIF-related votes by the Finance Committee and the full City Council remain.

A rendering of The 78.
Related Midwest