Presented before the Joint Meeting of the City of Chicago's Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards and Committee on Finance
Oral Testimony of MarySue Barrett
On behalf of Metropolitan Planning Council
Delivered on July 24, 2017
Good morning. My name is MarySue Barrett and I’m the President of the independent Metropolitan Planning Council.
MPC supports the Department of Planning and Development’s Industrial Corridor System Fund Ordinance and my comments today offer some suggestions to ensure the benefits of these fees are fully maximized and impact our entire city.
Since 1934, MPC has been dedicated to shaping a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous Chicago region for everyone. We believe that all of our region’s assets must work together so that we can compete in the global economy, attract business and residents, and continue to be a great place to live, work and raise families.
MPC applauds DPD for creating a fee structure that leverages what is likely one of the largest development opportunities the city will witness. In fact, it’s been cited that the North Branch will leverage billions of dollars of new private investment, hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue, tens of thousands of permanent and construction jobs, unprecedented open space improvements and critical transportation enhancements, not just in this corridor, but citywide.
It’s also been cited that the new fee ordinance—as applied to the North Branch—is likely to generate tens of millions of dollars in new revenue to support both local improvements and citywide economic development.
MPC is excited about the opportunities these fees bring, but not enough detail is provided to ensure it will be enough.
For example will it be enough to protect good paying jobs and ensure manufacturing plays a critical role in Chicago’s economy? Planned Manufacturing Districts – or PMDs – protect one of our city’s greatest economic strengths – manufacturing. In fact, as other Midwest cities lost their manufacturing jobs, Chicago’s PMDs have helped stem the outflow of good paying jobs and keep industry within city boarders. This is a strength we should build on to remain competitive.
Will it be enough to support critical infrastructure upgrades within the community as well as to spark industrial development and supportive investments in places of need on the city’s south and west sides?
And will it be enough to fulfill the promises of its nationally vaulted Neighborhood Opportunity Bonus, which has increased funding for the commercial and cultural needs in low-income neighborhoods.
For now, it’s impossible to predict the impact of the fees, and MPC encourages the City to regularly and rigorously evaluate how the ordinance is working. We recommend a thorough vetting every three to five years that probes into tough questions about the industrial and infrastructure needs of the city. Is it enough? And can we do more?
Additionally, we encourage the City to conduct an assessment on the impacts a greater transportation burden may have on our existing transportation systems.
The North Branch Framework Plan marks both an enormous shift as well as a tremendous opportunity. Where once more than 100,000 tons of steel were processed a year, the North Branch Industrial Corridor will be reimagined into co-existing businesses, offices, homes, shops, and amenities. We support DPD’s plan and remain confident that while change in the North Branch occurs, the City of Chicago can leverage one of the biggest development opportunities to protect industry and jobs, and support economic growth in neighborhoods of need.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony.