Lincoln Yards Gets Green Light, No Pay Day for Live Nation

Lincoln Yards, one of Chicago’s most ambitious and controversial proposed projects in over a decade, was approved by a 10-0 vote on Thursday, January 24.

The overhaul is being lead by Sterling Bay, a powerful development group that has set its sights on revamping some 50 plus acres of riverside land between Chicago’s Lincoln Park and Bucktown neighborhoods. The plans will include a shiny new transportation hub, recreational areas like a skate park and athletic fields, and numerous affordable housing developments.

Sterling Bay rendering shows planned recreation fields along the Chicago River

Since its original proposal in 2016, many community groups have opposed the plans, citing issues such as increased traffic congestion, and skyrocketing living costs. Before The Chicago Plan Commission ultimately approved Sterling Bay’s plans at Thursday’s hearing, several prominent voices rang out against them.

According to an article in The Chicago Tribune, “Ald. Michele Smith, 43rd, and Scott Waguespack, 32nd, whose wards are alongside the site, reiterated their opposition to the project and urged for more time for more public discussion of Sterling Bay’s plans.”

One of the loudest arguments also came from the vibrant but vulnerable Chicago music scene.

Live Nation: Soccer Stadium Cut Out

In an effort to appease its opponents, Sterling Bay announced on January 8th that it would abandon plans to build a 20,000-seat soccer stadium and several music venues. This was a huge area of contention for many music venue owners who feared unfair competition from monster concerts would run them out of the city, or out of business.

The proposed “entertainment district” would have been owned exclusively by events promoter Live Nation. While opinions on the effects of new music venues were varied, there was never any doubt that the project would transform Chicago’s music scene in a big way.

Those worried that beloved venues like Schuba’s, Beat Kitchen, and Subterranean, staples of the Chicago music culture, that would disappear, can rest easy. Oh, and you may want to write a thank-you letter to 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins.

Ryan Ori of theTribune writes, Hopkins… told constituents he wants a proposed entertainment district ‘replaced by restaurants, theaters, and smaller venues that will be scattered throughout the site. Live Nation will have no ownership interest in any of these venues.’”

Ald. Brian Hopkins, 2nd, during a City Council meeting in 2015

Hopkins was simply advocating for his constituents, as more than half of those who completed an online poll sent by Hopkins’s office opposed the stadium plans. Hopkins also cited the impact that giant stadiums have on residential areas. Chicagoans living in the Lake View (often referred to as Boystown) neighborhood understand the trouble of stadium-venues better than most. They’ve dealt with the noisy nights of “Wrigleyville” for decades.

“We know what that looks like—(Wrigley Field) provides exhibit A,” Hopkins said. “The neighborhoods around Wrigley Field tolerate that inconvenience because they know what they signed up for. The residents of Lincoln Park didn’t sign up for such a program.”

Success for Chicago

While we’re still far from frolicking in a summertime Sterling Bay-sponsored meadow, congratulations are in order. First, to Alderman Hopkins for standing up for his people, and speaking up for their interests; second, to the Sterling Bay executives, who recognized and actually listened to the people of Chicago.

We’re talking about developers on a big-budget project who agreed to change their course of action based on human feelings. *bewildered applause* It’s not every day that companies like this take the time to hear what people are asking of them, and then adjust their plans accordingly.

Now the Lincoln Yards entertainment district should be much more evenly spread, and populated with small venues that Chicagoans love spending time in. Without the predatory practices of a music behemoth like Live Nation ruining the fun, and the freedom, that makes Chicago’s music culture so special, the Lincoln Yards project looks to be an exciting, positive deal for the city and it’s music-loving people.  

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