Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced an initiative to generate more jobs and investment in Chicago’s neighborhoods by reviewing and improving land use policies in many of the city’s 26 designated industrial corridors. The Mayor is launching a public review process that will focus on modernizing restrictive zoning in these corridors and benefiting the entire city with new opportunities for investment, neighborhood jobs and economic development.
The initiative will reinforce the city’s existing manufacturing sector by supporting site development improvements that are critical for industrial job growth. It will also create modern zoning policies to support the redevelopment of underutilized industrial land that has a blighting effect, and generate investment to bring manufacturing jobs to neighborhoods that need economic growth.
“This initiative builds on the new norm we are establishing in Chicago where our thriving areas will help our neighborhoods in need of investment. By modernizing Chicago’s industrial corridors, we can generate economic and job opportunities for residents throughout the city,” Mayor Emanuel said. “This initiative will also serve as another chapter in a much larger story about the return and resurgence of manufacturing and technology jobs right here in the city of Chicago.”
A review and public input process will lead to formal recommendations to City Council to accomplish three primary goals:
• Develop ideas to improve industrial corridors that have the potential for new or continued manufacturing growth. In these corridors, the city will review market analyses and develop ideas for improvements and potential corridor boundary expansions to ensure they are more competitive.
• Reform some industrial corridors to unlock new economic growth where industry is no longer the main driver. In areas such as the North Branch, where traditional industry is no longer the main economic driver and properties like the former A. Finkl & Sons Co. site are stagnant, the city will review existing and potential land uses to accommodate market demand for potential technology, commercial, residential or retail development.
• Create a new funding tool to invest in industrial job centers, many of which are in proximity to neighborhoods in need of economic growth. To help address Chicago’s shifting industrial landscape and increase the economic competitiveness of local neighborhoods, the Mayor will propose a fee on non-industrial developments in industrial corridors. That fee structure will be based on the impact those developments have on the city’s overall industrial landscape. The funds generated will be dedicated to two purposes: supporting industrial expansion and manufacturing jobs in proximity to neighborhoods that need support, and supporting area infrastructure improvements to corridors transitioning away from traditional industrial use.
The city will work with local aldermen to conduct a series of public meetings with industrial business owners, property owners and other community stakeholders, and will engage consultants to assist with the land use studies. Initial meetings will start this spring and focus on certain key corridors, including North Branch, Pilsen, Little Village, and Roosevelt/Cicero. Subsequent to that community input, formalized plans will be created to guide the reforms and related improvements.
This initiative was introduced initially in the Mayor’s second-term transition report, which proposed re-imagining the city’s Planned Manufacturing Districts to support modern development. It also follows a planning process formalized by DPD in 2013 with the "Chicago Sustainable Industries" (CSI) plan, which was adopted to guide the city’s support of industry and manufacturing. CSI’s primary action items directly address the city’s need to assess and update decades-old policies and city code regarding industrial corridor boundaries, PMD boundaries, and zoning ordinances.
“This proposal will create jobs and economic growth throughout Chicago by giving the city tools to support our manufacturers and modernize areas of the city that have changed over time,” Alderman Daniel Solis (25th) said. “It will also compliment the Mayor’s initiative to reform the downtown zoning bonus system to generate new neighborhood commercial investment, which I look forward to introducing in the City Council this month.”
“For Chicago to maintain and build on its legacy as one of the world’s premier manufacturing and job centers, our policies must evolve as well, on behalf of existing firms, on behalf of new firms, and on behalf of the neighborhoods that need and support them,” Planning Commissioner David L. Reifman said. “We need to directly address how our land use policies impact the shifting character of 21st century manufacturing, tech-related employment, freight-related growth, and traditional manufacturing.”
This initiative will build on the work the Emanuel administration has done to grow and support existing manufacturers while bringing new ones to Chicago. Business assistance programs like Tax Increment Financing (TIF), TIFWorks, property tax incentives and others have been essential in keeping Vienna Beef in Chicago, attracting a new Whole Foods distribution center and the Method Manufacturing plant to Pullman, building the UI Labs Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute on Goose Island, and expanding the Cedar Concepts chemical manufacturing complex on the South Side. The city has also recently designated the Northwest Highway and Wright Business Park industrial corridors on the Northwest Side and established the Fulton Market Innovation District to encourage new investment on the Near West Side.
The initiative supports Mayor Emanuel’s initiative to strategically leverage localized economic development trends on behalf of the entire city. In February, the Mayor announced an initiative that will generate millions of dollars in new investment into communities that need economic opportunities by allowing developers to obtain zoning density bonuses for construction projects in the downtown area in exchange for investments to support neighborhoods in-need.
The Mayor also recently reformed the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) to expand affordable housing development in local neighborhoods for projects involving city assistance. The ARO reform ordinance is estimated to generate an estimated 1,200 units, create 2,500 new jobs, and generate nearly $200 million in local income.