Aldertrack has learned that Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to officially introduce legislation today to overhaul the city’s density bonus system and create a new Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus in today’s full City Council meeting. Specific details are embargoed until the ordinance is introduced, sources tell us, because the Department of Planning and Development was still working on final changes as late as yesterday afternoon.

Aldertrack sources say the ordinance would completely revamp a section in the city’s zoning code that lets developers build bigger and taller buildings in the city’s downtown area in exchange for money that would help support investment opportunities in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. DPD has been holding meetings with aldermen for the past several weeks, and sources say told “big changes” should be expected.

One issue of contention, according to two sources at those briefings, is the issue of how the fees levied would be allocated and which agency would administer them. It’s likely that issue will be left to be determined in committee.

Back in February, Mayor Emanuel announced that he would work with newly appointed DPD Commissioner David Reifman, who was recruited from national law firm DLA Piper, to update the zoning bonus system by eliminating outdated bonuses.

At the time, the Mayor’s Office said the money collected from the new Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus would help support, “business development and job growth in neighborhoods facing poverty, high unemployment and other indicators of underinvestment by the private market.”  

According to statistics provided by DPD, since 2012, approximately 24 projects took advantage of 37 bonuses for an additional 1.49 million square feet of space. That includes:

  • 14 Affordable Housing Density Bonuses  
  • 11 Upper Level Setback Bonuses  
  • 1 Arcade Bonus
  • 2 Green Roof Bonuses
  • 1 Concealed Parking Bonus
  • 1 Underground Parking Bonus
  • 1 Lower Level Planting Bonus
  • 2 Adopt-a-Landmark Bonuses
  • 2 Transit Bonuses
  • 1 Plaza Bonus
  • 1 Sidewalk Widening Bonus