Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has reversed course, agreeing to delay today’s City Council vote on whether to greenlight a $1.6 billion tax increment financing (TIF) package. The subsidies would benefit Sterling Bay and Related Midwest, the developers behind two proposed megaprojects, Lincoln Yards and the 78, respectively.
In the past few months, Emanuel had urged both the City Council and the candidates for his office to push ahead with the TIFs, feeling that a failure to break ground on these projects would have a chilling affect on development in the city. Some have viewed Lori Lightfoot’s landslide victory last week as a referendum on Aldermanic prerogative and the massive development projects that they can lead to.
“In our first meeting, as well as in subsequent conversations, I made it very clear to the Mayor-elect that I would not move forward on these projects if she wanted to delay the process,” Emanuel said in a statement. “While I firmly believe in the value of these projects to the entire city, out of respect for her wishes and request, I will honor my commitment and delay the vote.”
Lightfoot has called for delaying the vote since her election win. In particular, she believes that the $6 billion Lincoln Yards project should have more on-site affordable housing and the city could get “a better deal” for the $900 million that would have gone into the Lincoln Yards TIF had today’s vote gone ahead and prevailed.
“From day one, I have raised concerns about these deals and the deeply flawed process that has led us to this moment,” Lightfoot said, adding that more community input and improved transparency were needed before any equitable economic growth could be derived from these megaprojects.
“I am hopeful that under the mayor-elect’s leadership of the new City Council these critical projects will move forward and bring the kind of investment and job creation that has been a hallmark of the past eight years,” Emanuel said.
Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards—which would stitch together Lincoln Park and Bucktown on over 50 acres at the North Branch—won approval from the Chicago Plan Commission at a contentious January meeting. Despite vocal opposition, the stage seemed set for the project to go ahead, prior to today’s decision.