$6bn Chicago megadevelopment set to begin next year

A $6bn real estate project is set to break ground in Chicago at the beginning of next year, starting with an eight-storey life sciences hub for biotech companies designed by Californian architect Gensler.

The 22ha Lincoln Yards development will be located on mostly derelict industrial land in the North Side district alongside the Chicago river.

Developer Sterling Bay is moving ahead with it despite the initial chilling effect of the coronavirus pandemic on real estate investment, generally.  

The project, which was put out to public consultation in 2016, will include up to 1.3 million sq m of commercial and residential space, including up to 6,000 homes, 1,200 of which will be affordable, 8.5ha of parks, as well as multiple infrastructure improvements.

The full, ten-year plan envisages up to 120,000 sq m of offices, 10,000 sq m of shops and 1,400 parking spaces between Dominick Street and the Chicago River south of Webster Avenue.

Site preparation work for the first phase is already under way.

To date, 23,000 tonnes of contaminated soil has been removed, 150 cubic metres of lead soil has been treated, and 30 underground storage tanks have been removed.

The developer will provide more than $120m in development fees, but will receive some $1.3bn in tax increment financing to help pay for roads and bridges on and around the project.

The tax subsidy has proved controversial. Last year, local groups Grassroots Collaborative and Raise Your Hand began a lawsuit to have the handout declared illegal on the grounds that the scheme did not meet a city’s rule that it should apply only to sites that were "blighted", and could not be developed without public assistance.

"The area’s proximity to Lincoln Park, Wicker Park and Bucktown, some of the most prosperous neighbourhoods in the city, make it poised for growth and redevelopment regardless of TIF subsidies," the motion stated.

Image: Gensler’s rendering of its life-sciences hub

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