Sterling Bay’s massive development planned for the former A. Finkl & Sons steel plant site has a name, a high-powered planning team and one big target: Amazon’s second headquarters.
About two years after it struck a deal to buy the North Side parcel along the Chicago River, the Chicago developer is disclosing new details, including the name: Lincoln Yards.
The mixed-use development could take up as much as 100 acres of land along Lincoln Park and Bucktown, cost as much as $10 billion and take a decade to complete, said Sterling Bay managing principal Andy Gloor.
Sterling Bay is sharing its first detailed description of Lincoln Yards at an ideal time to be in possession of a sprawling, well-located development site. Seattle-based Amazon last week announced it will search North America for a city where it can create a second headquarters for up to 50,000 new employees.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing for that city to be Chicago, and Gloor said Sterling Bay plans to court Amazon. A few prominent Chicago developers have sites that could potentially accomodate Amazon, but Sterling Bay is the first to publicly describe plans to land the deal.
“Chicago is a strong tech market,” Gloor said. “Chicago as a city has a lot to offer someone like Amazon. If you’re looking at Chicago and trying to build a second headquarters, 100 acres of riverside land between Lincoln Park and Bucktown feels like a good place to start.
“We think it’s the best infill site in the U.S. today.”
Lincoln Yards is expected to include a new Metra train station, an extension of The 606 elevated trail, a water taxi stop, office and residential towers, a riverside brewery, shops and restaurants. The project also could include other uses, including a school or a theater, Gloor said.
Sterling Bay plans to designate “a substantial amount of acreage” to open space, including The 606 extension, sports fields, parks and a wide riverwalk, Gloor said.
Gloor said the vacant parcel offers “a blank slate,” providing a variety of options for laying out a huge office campus with other amenities such as retail, apartments and hotel rooms. “We hope to soon have a partner that we can draw this up with,” Gloor said.
Competition will be intense among cities vying for Amazon, whose “HQ2” is expected to be one of the most coveted office deals in decades.
Sterling Bay has a track record of headquarters deals, including Oak Brook-based McDonald’s future headquarters under construction in the Fulton Market district. In previous deals, Sterling Bay brought Google’s Midwest headquarters to Fulton Market and the headquarters of food company Hillshire Brands and in-flight wireless provider Gogo to the West Loop. All of those deals were moves from Chicago’s suburbs to downtown.
Sterling Bay’s master planning team includes urban planning and architecture firm CBT, architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and transportation consultant NelsonNygaard.
Plans for Lincoln Yards are being revealed not long after the city announced major zoning changes for a swath of land near the river that was long limited to manufacturing uses. In anticipation of the potential changes, Sterling Bay has invested hundreds of millions of dollars on properties in the area, including $140 million for the 28-acre Finkl site and a pending $104.7 million for a city-owned vehicle maintenance facility just across the river from the Finkl site.
Sterling Bay owns or has contracts to buy more than 70 acres now, and hopes to expand the total site to 90 or 100 acres through additional acquisitions, Gloor said. The company owns land as far as Webster Avenue to the north, North Avenue to the south, the Kennedy Expressway to the west and Clybourn Avenue to the east.
Lincoln Yards could cost $6 billion to $10 billion to develop, Gloor said.
The developer still must gain city approval for a planned development of the site, following meetings with 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins and neighborhood groups.
One concern from neighbors is likely to be traffic. To address that, Gloor said Sterling Bay – working with the city and Metra – wants to create a sort of transportation hub based around a new Metra station, possibly at a property it owns on Besly Court just east of the expressway. The facility would include more than 2,000 parking spaces, a connection to The 606, a nearby water taxi station and shuttle buses to CTA trains, Gloor said.
“Everyone agrees that (the current Clybourn) Metra station is inadequate, and we’re willing to provide parts of our site to improve it and connect it to The 606, water taxis and public transportation,” Gloor said.
The 606 would be extended on a bridge going under the Kennedy but over Metra trains and the river. Working with the city, Sterling Bay wants to create a protected bike lane from Lincoln Yards directly to Lake Michigan, Gloor said.
Sterling Bay’s exact design for the site is likely to depend on whether Amazon or another large corporation signs on as an anchor tenant.
Gloor declined to estimate the amount of space Sterling Bay is likely to build, or how high the buildings would be. But he said constructing taller buildings would allow Sterling Bay to set aside larger open spaces, particularly along the river.
“There’s a huge focus on the river, really making it come to life, and creating a sense of community for the property,” Gloor said.