TIF Tiff Tips With Politics Unusual Greening Lincoln Yards, The 78

Unless you’ve been hiding underground with the daffodils for the last six months, you’re aware that there has been a battle royale going on in the storied corridors of Chicago City Hall. Real estate developers on one side, community groups on another, opportunists mugging for the TV cameras, and politicians both outgoing and incoming taking shots where they can. It’s been like one of those black-and-white cartoon mêlées that’s mostly a dust cloud with various limbs sticking out at jaunty angles.

Chicago politics. It’s kinda like that.

Now it’s all over. Finally. At Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s final city council meeting, the city’s aldermen voted to approve a pair of TIFs for Lincoln Yards, and The 78 — two of the biggest real estate projects in recent Chicago history. Some say they’re the “biggest ever,” but we think cleaning up the mess left behind by a certain clumsy cow at 137 DeKoven Street holds onto that title.

Whether this was a multi-billion dollar giveaway for projects in neighborhoods that don’t need help, or a parting shot from an outgoing mayor trying to leave his mark in the city’s skyline, or a bunch of incoming political rabble-rousers jockeying for position in a new era, or something else entirely depends largely on which newspaper you read.

Diagram of the January 2019 Lincoln Yards plan
Diagram of the January 2019 Lincoln Yards plan

Lincoln Yards will turn 55 acres of freshly vacant industrial land in the greater Goose Island area into more than a dozen new buildings — mostly skyscrapers — full of offices, hotels, restaurants, and several thousand new homes.

The 78 will do the same thing, but in the South Loop, along a different branch of the Chicago River, just north of Chinatown.

Rendering of The 78
Rendering of The 78

Both aim to be technology hubs, and both promise thousands of new jobs, plus millions of dollars in tax revenue for the city, which is how aldermen countenanced their decisions to fork over 2.4 billion TIF dollars to make the projects happen.

But in perhaps the surest sign that Chicago politics as usual is over, more than a dozen aldermen voted against each of the project TIFs. This would have been unthinkable just one mayor ago.

We won’t go into any more of the political details than that, since we gave up on Chicago’s political tribalism when the city’s 2016 Olympic bid imploded. If you want to read about the TIF fracas, pick up the Sun-Times. Or the Tribune. But probably the Sun-Times.

So here’s what’s coming down the pike:

Lincoln Yards:

  • Six billion dollars worth of development.
  • Nearly a dozen new high rises
  • Six thousand new homes
  • Three million square feet of commercial space
  • Two hundred thousand square feet of hotel space
  • Eight hundred thousand square feet of retail space
  • Millions (formerly eight) of square feet of mixed use space
  • New bridges across the Chicago River
  • An extension of The 606
  • A new Metra station
  • New water taxi stops
  • A reconfiguration of the Elston-Armitage-Ashland circus

The 78:

  • Up to 10,000 new homes
  • Thirteen million square feet of office space
  • New streets reconnecting Chinatown with The Loop
  • A new CTA Red Line station
  • And a bunch more stuff that hasn’t really been outlined in great detail yet, but will certainly be coming down the pike now that the final hurdle for both projects has been cleared.

The bottom line is that Chicago will be indelibly transformed by what happened Wednesday. Both projects were revised down to the wire, so the nitty gritties are still to come. Until then, enjoy the renderings of what may be on the horizon.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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