Ald. George Cardenas (12), Ald. Deb Mell (33) and Ald. Ameya Pawar (47) joined Cappleman in voting against the project.
Ald. Michelle Harris (8); Raymond Lopez (15), David Moore (17); Matt O’Shea (19); Howard Brookins (21); Walter Burnett (27); Carrie Austin (34); Margaret Laurino (39) and Brendan Reilly (42) voted in favor of the project.
Another key vote looms by the City Council’s Finance Committee, which is expected to approve a $900 million subsidy for the project, set to be generated by the 168-acre Cortland and Chicago River Redevelopment tax increment financing (TIF) district (F2018-72).
The City Council could give the 6,000-unit development poised to reshape the land between Lincoln Park and Bucktown along the Chicago River final approval Wednesday. Mayor Rahm Emanuel hopes it will solidify his legacy as the mayor who guided the final transformation of Chicago from an industrial behemoth to a city poised for growth in the 21st Century.
The project has the support of the Chicago Federation of Labor, as well as the Service Employees International Union, whose members will be among the 10,000 construction workers hired to build the development. Another 24,000 permanent jobs will be created by Lincoln Yards, city officials claim.
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2) said the changes to the development considered by the Zoning Committee — which he acknowledged came at the “11th hour” — made the project better. They were formally unveiled less than two hours before the meeting started.
“The community review process worked,” Hopkins said.
Among the changes – a reduction of the height of the tallest building in the 55-acre development from 800 feet down to 600. The total size of new buildings will be capped at 14.5 million square feet, Hopkins said.
Hopkins also said his office would hold a public meeting on each phase of the project as Sterling Bay prepares to build it, in an effort to give residents a chance to review the plans. In addition, Sterling Bay will be required to submit an annual traffic and transit study to the City Council. Hopkins pledged to hold a public hearing on those studies.
That will ensure Sterling Bay lives up to its end of the agreement, Hopkins said, before acknowledging that the new provisions don’t include penalties for violations – meetings would be advisory.
The revised plan requires 600 units of affordable housing to be built on site. Originally, the plan called for only 300 units to be built on site, a plan criticized by several alderman as insufficient.
Cappleman said he needed more time to review the changes, and moved to defer.
“And there’s still so much to digest — especially for a project that is this broad,” Cappleman said.
That brought a furious response from 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett, a close ally of Emanuel, who questioned Cappleman’s position as acting chairman.
The Uptown alderman replaced disgraced Ald. Danny Solis (25) as chairman of the Zoning Committee in January. Cappleman faces scientist Marianne Lalonde in the April 2 runoff to win a third term on the City Council.
“You don’t run zoning in other people’s wards,” Burnett said. “This is not your ward.”
Burnett’s motion to proceed with the hearing and a vote on Lincoln Yards also passed 9-4.
Under aldermanic prerogative — the city’s unwritten policy of giving aldermen the ultimate authority over projects in their own wards — the project only needs the support of the mayor and Hopkins, who has said the new roads, bridges and sidewalks set to be built as part of the Lincoln Yards development are urgently needed.
Lalonde spoke during the four-hour meeting and accused Cappleman of exploiting the City Council’s rules to appear to oppose Lincoln Yards without actually stopping the project.
It is “same cover he uses to make zoning decisions in our ward,” Lalonde said.
A source in the mayor’s office said it would be a “stretch” to suggest the drama was orchestrated to boost Cappleman’s prospects in the April 2 runoff. But since no one knew what Cappleman was planning, contingency plans were in place to ensure Lincoln Yards advanced Thursday, the source said.
However, after the meeting Cappleman said he was surprised that his effort to delay a vote on Lincoln Yards failed. He did not think his City Council colleagues would deviate from the a yearslong practice of allowing a committee chair to defer an item.
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) said he’d never seen committee members go against a chairman’s request to defer since he began serving in 2007.
Cappleman said he was pleased with the changes announced this week by Hopkins and planning officials, but wanted more affordable housing built for those making no more than 30 percent of the area’s median income, or $25,450 for a family of four, in the 2nd Ward.
“They really moved mountains,” Cappleman said, praising the reduction in the site’s density.
Announcing the changes less than 24 hours before the scheduled vote was “rushing it,” however. Cappleman said he wanted to see a more robust community input process.
“This is a plan of incredible scope,” Cappleman said. “It felt a little rushed to me.”
Cappleman said he knew he would make supporters of Lincoln Yards angry by delaying the vote.
“I was caught by surprise, because I have never seen it happen,” Cappleman said of aldermen refusing to defer an item at a committee chairman’s request. “I thought the right thing to do was to hold it a little longer.”
Although the 55-acre development is in the 2nd Ward, it is sandwiched between the 43rd Ward and 32nd Ward. Ald. Michele Smith (43) and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) vehemently oppose the project, and have been urging its delay, but are not Zoning Committee members. Mayoral candidates Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot also urged a delay.
Department of Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman said the approval of Lincoln Yards is critical to ensure Chicago’s economy remains robust as the city transitions from its industrial past into the future.
“These sites are absolutely critical as we consider our fiscal issues and our need to grow our tax base without increasing the burden on existing residents and businesses,” Reifman said.
Smith said Reifman was speaking “from a place of fear.”
“I am baffled by the suggestion that if we don’t approve Lincoln Yards on March 7 that it will mean Chicago is not open for business.” Smith said. “Where is the school? Where is the library? Where is the true public park? Where is the true public benefit?”
Waguespack called Lincoln Yards “a monstrosity.”
Opponents of the project also said the planned 11-acre park is insufficient. The park will be owned by Sterling Bay, but function as a public park and overseen by a park advisory council, Hopkins said.
Follow the play-by-play @TheDailyLineChi.