North Branch Modernization Framework
In 2016, the City of Chicago began extensive review of Chicago’s 26 existing industrial corridors. Among them was the North Branch, located along the Clybourn Corridor, which includes the 2nd, 27th and 32nd Wards.
The purpose of the study was to address the evolving reality of the industrial marketplace, whereby economic trends are signaling the need for expanded commercial and manufacturing uses citywide.
The result of this multi-year, public process came to be known as the North Branch Modernization Framework Plan, which was guided by the input of local residents, community groups, business owners, elected officials and stakeholders.
Recommendations from the framework are reflective of the global economic trends, and drive to transition the industrial corridor to a 21st century hub that accommodates for job growth, infrastructure investment and local, community benefit.
The plan identifies broader development opportunities intended to yield significant public gains such as new jobs, transit optionality, open and recreational space, and an expanded tax base.
Also in 2016, my office hosted a public meeting and charrette at DePaul University, where local residents and stakeholders had the opportunity to identify transportation and infrastructure improvement opportunities, along with ideal areas to host public, open and recreational space.
After the meeting, DePaul University Urban Planning students disseminated the suggestions and feedback, and published multiple reports for consideration to DPD and CDOT.
The North Branch Modernization Framework Plan passed the Chicago Plan Commission on May 18, 2017.
Prior to the vote, I was unconvinced that framework did enough to address concerns pertaining to two essential elements of the North Branch transformation: Infrastructure and park space.
As a result, I held my vote and negotiated with the Mayor and Planning Commissioner to ensure these items received further up-front commitments, along with investment guarantees to deliver on the framework’s principles.
After lengthy discussions, we reached a compromise that saw an additional 10 acres of park space guaranteed, supplemental to the initial 50 acres outlined in the framework.
Furthermore, I introduced and ordinance in May 2016 stipulating that 90% of all payments made by North Branch developers, in exchange for increased density for new development projects, would support vital transportation, infrastructure and open space improvements within corridor.
The ordinance spurred negotiations with the development community. Ultimately, we settled on 70% of the revenues generated by the city from developer impact fees would remain for local improvements - a substantial increase from zero financial commitments outlined in the original framework.
After reaching consensus on the framework plan to move forward, I testified in support at Plan Commission and City Council.
As I mention in my testimony, the passing of the framework is a beginning, not an ending. There is much work that lies ahead, and I look forward to facilitating a transparent, inclusive process where the community helps shape a new North Branch.
Introductory Remarks at December 2016 North Branch Public Meeting