SOM unveils plans for Chicago's Lincoln Yards neighbourhood
Lincoln Yards neighbourhood masterplan by SOM

SOM unveils plans for Chicago's Lincoln Yards neighbourhood

Architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has revealed plans to transform a former industrial site in Chicago into a "new urban destination".

Called Lincoln Yards, the development will transform an underused 50-acre (20.2-hectare) parcel along the North Branch of the Chicago River. The site is enveloped by some of the city's most well-known neighbourhoods: Bucktown, Wicker Park and Lincoln Park.

The $6 billion (£4.6 billion) project is being spearheaded by developer Sterling Bay, with the vision to turn the "swatch of old manufacturing properties into a new urban destination".

Lincoln Yards scheme planned for former industrial site

The company first unveiled its plans in July 2018, after acquiring aspects of the Planned Manufacturing District (PMD) –  a portion of land set aside a zone for manufacturing in 1988 – in 2016, and enlisted SOM to design the masterplan.

SOM's proposal, which includes offices, residences, hotels, restaurants and retail across the site, was awarded planning permission from the city last month.

Lincoln Yards neighbourhood masterplan by SOM

The scheme includes 21 acres (8.5 hectares) of open space – nearly half of the project's total area. This includes ways to activate the riverwalk into bustling public space, with renderings of the proposal showing water sports facilities, like kayak clubs, and open plazas for pop-up public events like farmers markets.

Lincoln Yards will also be "pedestrian-oriented", with a mixture of wooden decking and stone paving cover the walkways running along the waterways. SOM has also designed the project to extend the city's 606 – a former railroad turned into an elevated park.

Project to include improved transportation

Buildings include low-level brickwork designs, as well as tall glass and steel structures, to complement the industrial history of the site, and will contain a mix of uses.

A "new and improved infrastructure and river crossings" also forms part of the project, comprising plans to revise the street grid, and introduce new bridges and parking garages.

Lincoln Yards neighbourhood masterplan by SOM

Transportation overhauls involve plans to relocate the city's Clybourn Metra Station, provide easy access to the Interstate 94 (I-94) – a highway that links with Chicago's trendy Loop area and the O-Hare airport – as well as new water taxi stops and bus stations.

Lincoln Yards threatened as plans are rejected by 11 Alderman

SOM and Sterling Bay are collaborating on the project with James Corner Field Operations – the landscape design studio behind New York's High Line and Domino Park. Architecture firm CBT, transportation consultants KLOA and Nelson\Nygaard, and planning and design engineers Kimley-Horn and Associates are also involved.

Although Lincoln Yards was accepted by the planning commission last month, the project is now waiting a final vote on zoning from the City Council before the go ahead, and has been met with opposition.

Alderman James Cappleman announced that he would reject the scheme due to the lack of affordable housing provided. Sterling Bay has committed to building affordable residents, but not as part of the development, as reported by Block Club Chicago.

Cappleman is the 11th Alderman to oppose the project. Alderman Tom Tunney also rejected the development, following concerns about the heights of its buildings, and the effect on traffic and surrounding facilities.

Lincoln Yards neighbourhood masterplan by SOM

"We are missing an opportunity here to create more on-site affordability in a balanced, new neighbourhood," said Tunney in the Block Club Chicago report. He added that he was also concerned about "the size and scope of the project along with the impact on traffic, schools, parks and other neighbourhood amenities".

Chicago is hub for architectural development

Chicago joins a host US cities planning to transform their waterfronts, along with New York City's Hunter's Point and Domino Park, Boston, and Memphis.

The Illinois city also opened the Chicago Riverwalk in 2016, and the site has become a hive of activity.

SOM, which was founded in Chicago in 193, is also on the shortlist for to redesign the city's O'Hare international airport, alongside other major architecture firms such as Foster + Partners and Santiago Calatrava.

Images are courtesy Sterling Bay, copyright SOM.