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606 Extension, Mixed-Use Anchor North Branch Industrial Corridor Framework

North Branch Industrial Corridor

The Chicago Department of Planning and Development released the final version of the North Branch Industrial Corridor Framework late Monday, a little more than a week ahead of the Plan Commission's May 18 meeting, during which the plan will be discussed and voted on.

There is a lot to digest in the 130-page plan. One of the immediate takeaways is how Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city view the corridor's 760 acres as a prime redevelopment opportunity. Emanuel's willingness to relax PMD zoning restrictions in the corridor opens it up for a host of building opportunities. The framework lays out goals for more than half of the corridor's land for employment purposes, including new businesses and tech companies; multifamily housing, including affordable housing; and 60 acres of space to be repurposed as parks, wetland and open space. Sterling Bay's proposal to extend the 606 over the Chicago River to the A. Finkl & Sons site is part of the framework.

The A. Finkl & Sons site, pre-demolition

The framework makes allowances for transportation infrastructure improvements to manage traffic circulation throughout the corridor. Some of the ideas in the plan involve reconfiguring roadways, viaducts and bridge reconstruction projects; the construction of up to a dozen new pedestrian/bike bridges and under-bridge connections along the river to increase the effectiveness of the area’s five transit stations; reconstruction of Metra's Clybourn station; and using "smart signals" and real-time displays to minimize peak travel times.

If the Plan Commission approves the framework, PMD zoning would be relaxed in the corridor's northern portion, which would permit existing uses and accommodate transitions to mixed-use office, commercial and residential uses at appropriate locations. The PMD zoning near Goose Island would be refined and the zoning in the corridor's southern section would change to downtown service to accommodate transitions to mixed-use commercial and residential purposes.

For developments in the corridor that require zoning changes, the city is proposing an "Industrial Corridor System Fee" that the Emanuel administration believes could generate millions in revenue. Developments in the corridor's northern portion could buy FAR through a zoning bonus payment similar to how the city's Neighborhood Opportunity Fund operates.