North Branch River Works to hold second meeting

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The North Branch River Works project team will hold a second community outreach meeting on Wednesday, November 19, at 6 pm at the Bucktown-Wicker Park Public Library, 1701 N. Milwaukee. 

Community members from areas both east and west of the north branch of the Chicago River are invited to attend this meeting concerning the future of the vacated industrial properties, including A. Finkl & Sons Co., A. Lakin & Sons, and Gutmann Tannery.  North Branch Works is engaged in a planning process funded through a Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).   The first community outreach meeting took place on July 15 at the Little Sisters of the Poor Auditorium, 2325 North Lakewood.  This time, the meeting is being held in the area west of the river. 

North Branch Works, formerly known as the Local Economic & Employment Development (LEED) Council, is a not-for-profit agency dedicated to promoting jobs and economic development in the industrial areas bordering the north branch of the Chicago River.

With Finkl Steel having relocated to the far south side of Chicago and the Gutmann Tannery building having been demolished, the question arises as to the future use of these properties.  It is a concern not only for the present owners of these properties who may wish to sell or develop them, but also for the surrounding community and the remaining industrial operations along the river.  At present, use of the property is restricted by the provisions of the Clybourn Corridor Planned Manufacturing District No. 1, which was created largely at the urging of Finkl.    Should these properties remain industrial?  If so, there is no likelihood that the uses will be of the heavy industrial type like steel mills and tanneries.  However, the district and nearby areas has become the home of new industries, including tech centers, research and development, and other 21st century innovative businesses.

North Branch Works has taken the comments from the first outreach meeting, and the results of consultations with various businesses and groups interested in the project and its experts and consultants, and drafted principles for the redevelopment of the river works sites.  These will be presented for comment at the next outreach meeting.  To view the ideas and opinions that have been developed, you can go to www.civicartworks.com/projects/north-branch-river-works.

Representatives of the Sheffield Neighborhood Association and other nearby community groups have expressed a particular concern with the need to improve transportation in the area.   The street layouts in this area impede the efficient flow of traffic.  The lack of public transportation, the under-development of the Clybourn Metra Station, the increasing commercial development along Clybourn, and the potential for extension of the 606 (formerly Bloomingdale Trail) corridor are all matters of concern.  Access to the river for transportation and recreation is also a matter of interest.  Of immediate interest is the reopening of Southport Avenue from Clybourn and Cortland.  Southport was closed at the request of Finkl Steel as part of the development of its campus and the improvements along Cortland Avenue.  Now that it is no longer operating, reopening Southport should be considered as a way to improve the traffic flow in the Clybourn/Cortland/Elston area.

If you are interested in the future of this area, make it a point to attend the next outreach meeting.  If you cannot attend, you may submit comments and questions at the Civic Art Works website noted above.

Ted Wrobleski chairs SNA’s Planning Committee.