Controversial Lincoln Yards development heads to Zoning Committee

Protesters are demanding the Chicago City Council put the brakes on a massive proposed North Side development until after the election. 

At the same time, aldermen are expected on Thursday to give the green light to Lincoln Yards, after its developer promises to double the amount of affordable housing.

"This thing has turned out to be a great thing,” Ald. Walter Burnett said. 

There was praise Tuesday from members of the City Council's Zoning Committee, who say they're satisfied with changes to Lincoln Yards, a $6 billion proposed development. It would feature 6,000 residential units, retail, and parks on 55 acres along the Chicago River just west of Lincoln Park.

Responding to community pressure, developer Sterling Bay has agreed to double the amount of affordable housing to 600 units -- 10 percent of the total development -- and pledged to support more affordable housing citywide.

"Many of my colleagues who had expressed some skepticism, if not outright opposition, have now told me they plan to vote for this,” Ald. Brian Hopkins said. “We expect this to pass zoning on Thursday."

On Tuesday night, protests organized by the Chicago Teachers Union marched in front of the aldermanic office of Zoning Committee Chairman James Cappleman, demanding the Lincoln Yards vote be delayed until after April's city elections.     

They say the project will divert nearly $500 million in TIF funds from Chicago schools.

"It's a stealth tax hike on the rest of the residents, from Rogers Park to Roseland,” said Huu Nguy, a protester. “Everybody's going to have to make up for that levy."

Some Chicago aldermen say more time is needed to study the financial details.

“This is so detrimental to Chicago taxpayers that it's going to leave us in the lurch for decades to come,” said Ald. Scott Waguespack. 

"To answer individuals who say delay, delay, delay, progress cannot be delayed in the city of Chicago,” said Ald. Raymond Lopez. “Political ambition cannot stop progress."