Latest Lincoln Yards Survey Reveals Drop In Community Support

More than 880 people responded to a survey conducted by the Sheffield Neighborhood Association.

By Amber Fisher, Patch Staff | Oct 3, 2018 11:38 am ET | Updated Oct 3, 2018 1:05 pm ET

Latest Lincoln Yards Survey Reveals Drop In Community Support

CHICAGO — A new public survey reveals that community support is diminishing for the proposed Lincoln Yards development. Conducted by the Sheffield Neighborhood Association, the survey shows a significant drop in support for the development compared to a previous survey conducted by Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) in the summer. SNA president Jim Gramata presented the latest survey at a community meeting on Sept. 26. More than 200 community members were in attendance, as well as Hopkins, Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd).

The survey presentation included a "top 10" list of the most important community concerns about the proposed Lincoln Yards development. The full list of 30 ranked questions has been posted on the SNA website. According to the SNA survey, 91.5 percent of the respondents said they were within walking distance of the development site, but only 25 percent of their respondents "love" the Lincoln Yards proposal or "feel it is good." The earlier survey conducted Hopkins' office in the summer, which included feedback from 443 residents, found that 40 percent of those survey respondents "love it" or "feel it is good." While some of the shift of community opinion in the SNA survey moved to the 'neutral' category, almost half — 46.7 percent — of the 883 respondents either "did not care for" or "hated" the current Lincoln Yards proposal.

Gramata said he thinks there are two possible explanations for the discrepancy between the surveys: a growing nervousness among the public over a lack of proposal details, and the reach of the SNA survey, which was nearly twice the size of the 2nd Ward one. "Without any kind of traffic and congestion studies, without clarity or even basic details about infrastructure improvements, without any information on project funding and who is paying for what, without any site plan nor master plans, without sequencing details or a timeline of the planned development, it is making the majority of people very nervous and concerned," Gramata said.

Gramata said he believes the SNA survey size is a "better reflection of the actual feelings of the community" than the 2nd Ward survey. "...91.5 percent of the respondents in our SNA survey were within walking distance of the site, whereas the 2nd Ward poll respondents may have been farther from the site and possibly are more supportive because they would be less impacted by the development," Gramata said. "Respondent proximity was not measured in their poll." Question topics in the SNA survey were taken from online community posts, communications and media, Gramata said. The results indicate that three out of four residents in the community oppose the three most controversial pieces of the development proposal: a 20,000 seat soccer stadium, Live Nation exclusivity and 700- to 800-foot high-rise buildings. Three out of four people surveyed by SNA said it's either "important" or "very important" that the "20,000 seat stadium and venue concept be completely eliminated" from the proposal. Three out of four of the SNA survey respondents also said they would not support an exclusive agreement being given to Live Nation "excluding local concert promoters from competing on an even playing field." Nearly three-quarters of respondents marked a 1 or 2 out of 1-10 scale that they would likely not support 70 to 80 story buildings in the proposed Lincoln Yards development.

The top three most important community concerns, ranked in order, were solving adequately for congestion, providing a vision in a master plan and addressing the lack of public park space. Around 87 percent of the SNA survey respondents said that real and viable plans for congestion mitigation, "including traffic impact, new bridges, streets, sidewalks and improved traffic and circulation plans," must be provided in order for residents to support the Lincoln Yards project. More than three-quarters of survey responses revealed the importance for details on an open space and parks plan. Respondents also wanted to know whether parks are being proposed as public or private. More than 700 of the 883 respondents stated their demand for a master plan from Sterling Bay and the city that shows "the entire vision and scope of the development." Respondents also wanted a clearer outline of the "sequencing and phasing" and general timing of the development. Also highlighted in the top 10 list were a desire for more clarity on the proposal's "land-use and programming" and more details on the planned infrastructure improvements being made. Respondents wanted to know what will be built, when building will occur, how much building will cost and who will pay for it. Hopkins has continued to reassure residents that no proposal will move forward without their approval, and that the process is only in its preliminary stages. He said Sterling Bay wants the community to participate in the creation of the plans. But Gramata said that hasn't eased residents' "nervousness."

"There is currently a chicken and egg situation going on here and that is part of our frustration with how the process and information distribution has been progressing to date," Gramata said. "How can we determine our priorities and issues about the project and make concerns and recommendations without a more complete PD?" Gramata also said there's a lack of transparency. "The frustration comes when there is information that is available but is not being shown and shared," Gramata said. "For example, there are site plans that have to be submitted to the PD at the intake meeting before the plans are submitted to the city; however those documents have not yet been made public." Gramata said many residents want an independent traffic consultant be hired for comparison with the required developers traffic report to see the impact on surrounding communities. Hopkins agreed that an independent traffic study would be considered after the current traffic impact study Sterling Bay has commissioned is made public. Sterling's study is currently being reviewed by CDOT.

In a statement, Sterling Bay spokesperson Sarah Hamilton referenced one of the SNA survey questions. "Over 80% of respondents in the survey rated a statement, on a scale of 1-10, in support of Lincoln Yards," Hamilton said. "We are encouraged by that support for Lincoln Yards and look forward to transforming this underutilized former industrial site into a vibrant community that will finally connect Bucktown and Wicker Park to Lincoln Park." Hamilton was referencing the following survey question: Hamilton said Sterling Bay looks forward to sharing additional details at the next community meeting hosted by Hopkins. "...we strongly agree with survey respondents that the current transportation and infrastructure need to be improved, which is why we've funded a traffic study and are developing the site with multi-modal transportation, access and mobility, and pedestrian-scaled streets as design principles," Hamilton said. The current Lincoln Yards proposal includes 5,000 residential units, 16 to 25 buildings, the 20,000 seat stadium and six acres of park space. The estimated completion date would be 2028.

A full summary of the survey and a initial summary of the data collected is available on the SNA website

Top image courtesy of SNA.