CRE N Illinois

Revised Lincoln Yards design reduces density with shorter towers, more parkland

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Ahead of a community meeting this Thursday, developer Sterling Bay has revealed some revisions to its huge planned development, Lincoln Yards. The changes, intended to curry favor with area residents and city officials, would shorten some proposed high-rises and increase the amount of open space.

Back in July, Sterling Bay proposed 6 million square feet of commercial space, 5,000 residential units, up to 500 hotel rooms and buildings that averaged 300 feet, but a few “icon” towers that would be as tall as 800 feet. But as first reported in the Chicago Tribune and Crain’s, the updates to the North Branch project eliminate two buildings completely and shorten the remaining towers.

The tallest structures would now rise 50 stories and 650 feet and approximately 100 stories have been removed from the original proposal. Despite these reductions, the total square footage of proposed buildings in the plan has grown from 12 million to 12.8 million, due in part, to new land added into the Lincoln Yards footprint, such as the new offices of logistics firm C.H. Robinson, which opened in August at 1515 W. Webster Ave.

One complaint from community members and 2nd Ward Alderman Hopkins was the amount of open space. These updates increase publicly accessible open space in the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill master plan from 13.4 to 20.9 acres. these include playgrounds, pedestrian paths, meadows, riverwalks and areas for sports. While 25 percent of the total site’s area had been set aside for open space in the July proposal, this update bumps that up to 37 percent.

“I’ve made it clear and the community has made it clear that we need less density and more open space,” Hopkins said to the Tribune.

The ambitious, $5 billion mixed-use project would create a new neighborhood on 70 acres along the North Branch of the Chicago River. Originally pitched as a location for Amazon’s HQ2, the development will include office and residential uses, along with hotels, a major enternainment component, restaurants, open space and a soccer stadium.

Sterling Bay has been very active in the past year with high-profile acquisitions, including 600 West Chicago Avenue—home to the Groupon headquarters—which they purchased from Equity Commonwealth for $510 million as well as the two-tower Prudential Plaza acquired from 601W Companies for $680 million. Most recently they paid $300 million for Hearn’s stake in 875 North Michigan Avenue, formerly known as the John Hancock Center.