Just months after the Chicago City Council voted to approve the controversial Lincoln Yards megadevelopment, the very first piece of the $6 billion project is taking shape in the form of new synthetic turf soccer fields along the western edge of the massive North Branch site.
“Cleaning up formerly contaminated industrial land and returning it to the community is one of the benefits promised by the North Branch Framework Plan,” said 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins in a Wednesday email to residents. “On Sunday, July 28, we will take a significant step toward achieving that promise as we officially open recreational park space at Lincoln Yards.”
According to Hopkins’ email—and on-site signage—the new green space will be known as “Fleet Fields.” The name is seemingly a reference to the City of Chicago’s former Department of Fleet and Facility complex that once stood at the site.
Sterling Bay purchased the 18-acre parcel from the city for $104.4 million and combined it with its other North Branch properties to create Lincoln Yards. The developer initially envisioned a 20,000-seat United Soccer League stadium at the waterfront site, but Hopkins rejected that part of the plan based on community feedback.
According to the alderman’s email, the new athletic fields are on track to be completed 18 months ahead of schedule and represent just a small piece of the total 21 acres of publicly accessible open space promised in the Lincoln Yards master plan. The elected official says he will hold community meetings on permanent park improvements once the architects and designs are selected.
To support 14.5 million square feet worth of buildings, 23,000 jobs, and 6,000 residential units, Sterling Bay plans to build new streets, bridges over the Chicago River, and an eastward extension of The 606 trail. The developer will pay for those infrastructure costs upfront and will be reimbursed by the city as part of a $1.3 billion in tax increment financing (TIF) deal.
It’s unclear if Sterling Bay is using TIF money to build Fleet Fields. The Lincoln Yards development is currently the target of a lawsuit claiming that the city’s TIF deal violates state law which requires new TIF districts to demonstrate that an area is blighted and that redevelopment would not happen without TIF money.