This article was originally posted on 8/19/19 and was updated on April 14/2021.
What is Lincoln Yards?
Lincoln Yards is a mixed-use megadevelopment helmed by Sterling Bay Companies, one of the most prolific commercial real estate owner/developers in Chicago, if not the country.
Continue reading for:
- A map of the Lincoln Yards location
- Lincoln Yards master plan
- Lincoln Yards architects
- Lincoln Yards renderings
- Lincoln Yards project cost
Sterling Bay Project Analysis
If you aren’t familiar with Sterling Bay, we’ve provided a short project analysis on Sterling Bay below with an overview reflecting numbers as of 4.14.2021:
When we look at the BuildCentral construction database at ConstructionWire.com and the project analysis for Sterling Bay, we can see how the work they do is broken down by role, construction stage, building type, and geography.
And clearly, Sterling Bay’s activity is strongest in Illinois with projects in office space and retail comprising the bulk of their focus.
This makes a mixed-use project like Lincoln Yards an ambitious, but very achievable development for Sterling Bay.
Listen to the ConstructionWire podcast for key players and project overview.
Lincoln Yards Project Overview
Lincoln yards is an estimated $5-$6 billion dollar mixed-use mega-development on the north branch of the Chicago River, located in the area between Bucktown and Lincoln Park.
Plans call for the redevelopment of the former Finkl Steel campus into a 12 million square foot mixed-use development.
The 54-acre site will feature multiple office complexes on both sides of the Chicago River, up to 5,000 residential units, 400 to 500 hotel rooms, retail space, and a new Metra station.
The tallest planned office building is expected to reach a height of 70 stories. A 6.2-acre public park will also be included.
There will be 600 affordable residential units.
Why so much buzz?
The sheer size and complexity of the project have gotten the attention of the industry and local press.
The attention paid to public park space and recreational access to the water has made the development a very attractive upgrade to the former industrial area it will occupy.
And similar to Related’s ‘The 78’, it was also rumored that Amazon was considering housing its new headquarters, HQ2, on the premises, though that never came to fruition.
Due to the use of TIFs to subsidize the Lincoln Yards project and the perceived impact on traffic and quality of life, the project has been met with some controversy.
Much of that controversy had to do with the original plans that called for the construction of a new, 20,000-seat United Soccer League soccer stadium and music venue at the site. Those plans have been cancelled and replaced with park space as the rendering below illustrates.
The facility was to feature a retractable roof, concourse, multiple concession areas, and parking but was eventually overruled due to pushback from citizens and their alderman.
Other community groups have pushed for more affordable housing options in the area to which Sterling Bay responded by doubling the amount of units from an original 300 to 600.
Lincoln Yards FAQs
Where is Lincoln Yards located?
Sitting on the north branch of the Chicago River, the exact location of Lincoln Yards is an area comprised of Webster Avenue on the north, The Kennedy Expressway on the west, North Avenue to the south and Clybourn Avenue to the east.
Who are the architects responsible for the Lincoln Yards master plan?
Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) and CBT are responsible for the Lincoln Yards master plan.
At the SOM site you’ll find a number of renderings for the project.
What is the Lincoln Yards project timeline?
The exact timeline of the Lincoln Yards project and its different phases is unknown at this time,however, on 1/25/21, a representative from Sterling Bay Companies stated that construction on phase 1 is now expected to begin in the summer of 2021. A general contractor has yet to be selected. Some related construction has already started, beginning with completion of new athletic fields.
What are the new Lincoln Yards athletic fields called?
Dubbed “Fleet Fields,” they are open to the public for both free and league play. The fields are located at 1397 W. Wabansia.
What is the Lincoln Yards completion date?
The Lincoln Yards date of completion is not yet known, but projects of this size can be expected to take the better part of a decade to complete.
What is the Lincoln Yards project cost?
Lincoln Yards is estimated to cost $5-6 billion dollars.
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Learn more about Lincoln Yards on the ConstructionWire Podcast
ConstructionWire Ep.5 Podcast Transcript
Hello, listeners, and welcome to the fifth episode of the ConstructionWire podcast. Remember, that this is a podcast that twice a month takes the blue pencil to the biggest news in the construction market, and it makes it accessible to you.
I’m your host, Luke O’Brien, and as always this podcast is made possible by BuildCentral, the Chicago-based front runner in construction market research whose data keeps you ahead in the game and knowledgeable to every opportunity available whether you are a vendor or supplier, contractor or developer.
Today’s show is going to be a little bit different, in a good way we believe. If you have been paying attention, in past episodes, we have mentioned that both BuildCentral, and the ConstructionWire podcast are based in the great city of Chicago and in terms of architecture, construction, development and radio, Chicago is and always has been an international destination.
And as of this year 2019, we’re in the throes of a mega-development boom with projects like Wolf Point, the River District, The 78, and for the purposes of this episode, the big one, Lincoln Yards.
So today, for our fifth episode, instead of bringing you our regular lineup of top construction news headlines followed by our MegaMaps segment, don’t worry, they will both be back on our next episode soon. We will instead be paying homage to our hometown of Chicago.
We will be spending our time today taking a long, close look at its biggest construction project in recent memory, Lincoln Yards, and the developer behind it, another Chicago-based company, Sterling Bay. So sit back and enjoy, relax. Let’s start it up.
So why Lincoln Yards? Why spend a whole episode discussing this particular development and not one of the multitudes of other mega-developments either in planning or being built across the United States including Chicago?
Well, perhaps alongside The 78, which as it stands would be the 62-acre project being developed by Related Midwest, just South of the Loop in North of Chinatown in Chicago, Lincoln Yards will end up being one of the largest developments in Chicago history.
And not only that, the level of public interest that Lincoln Yards has sparked since its inception is really essentially unparalleled.
Since 2015, when the plan for Lincoln Yards began to be formulated and inroads were being made to acquire the major tracks of land for it, there has essentially been no shortage of drama surrounding the project.
Between then and now in August 2019 and back in 2015, a ton of small dramas have played out in the back and forth between the developers and the city.
Whether or not the planning commission would approve the project, whether TIF financing would be awarded to it, whether a soccer stadium would work as a part of it.
And how the new mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, might affect its momentum because, under the previous administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, he was certainly all for it.
And simply observing the progress of the Lincoln Yards project and what Sterling Bay has done to keep it on track, at least from a research standpoint in my case, is fascinating. It’s nail-biting.
If you’re familiar with the format of our show of the ConstructionWire podcast, you know that we usually feature a segment on it called the MegaMap.
It’s my favorite segment personally, besides when we have a guest on, and it is essentially time that we allocate to the biggest, and most ambitious projects going on in the United States right now.
Now, how we decide on which projects to cover for each MegaMap segment is essentially determined by whether or not the project is relevant for some reason that particular week.
You’ll remember in our last episode, we covered the Thirty Meter Telescope project in Hawaii due to the fact that it was, once again moving forward after having been on a long hiatus due to local protests against it.
We believe that it’s our job at the ConstructionWire podcast and even more so at BuildCentral as a whole to bring you content that is current and relevant in the industry as well as to your own respective businesses.
Now, what separates the Lincoln Yards project out from the other big projects that we’ve covered in the past is that since 2015 it has never stopped being relevant, and it has continued to garner more and more public attention, so I will take a step back now, and we can get into the nitty-gritty of what is actually being proposed for it.
Now, where is Lincoln Yards located? Oh, well, the main portion of it will be located at the former site of Finkl Steel between Wicker Park and Lincoln Park on the Chicago River. Now, A. Finkl & Sons Steel, they operated at that 22 acres site for over a hundred years as a Chicago institution. I believe that they’re still in operation today.
They just relocated to the South side of Chicago and it was really when they started demolishing the old structures at that 22 acres site in order to prep it to sell to developers that this whole thing really got into motion.
That demo was, I think that started back in 2015 when all that occurred and essentially right after that happened, Sterling Bay began buying up smaller three to five acres sites nearby, sort of surrounding the big 22 acre one, and finally in December 2016, they closed on the Finkl Steel site.
Now, following that, Sterling Bay purchased another 18 acre site home to the department of Fleet and Facility Management who also, in turn, moved to the South side like A. Finkl & Sons did.
And the city accepted the purchase of that 18 acres site for Sterling Bay in July of 2017, so right after they bought the 22 acres site in December 2016, they closed on this one in July 2020 17.
So two months later after July and September 2017 with all the land purchases complete Sterling Bay releases the name of the obvious planned big development they’re looking at for all this land that they have just acquired and that is Lincoln Yards. And the total land area acquired, I believe, came out to eventually be 55 acres primed for development.
Now, according to the most recent master plans of the Lincoln Yards project, the full scope of the development essentially equates to a whole new Chicago neighborhood. They will be creating a whole new livable community.
Really mirroring the purpose of The 78 mega-development that I mentioned earlier. Currently, there are 77 designated neighborhoods in Chicago, all distinct from one another and The 78 development aims to become, obviously, the next one.
So stopping short of expressly saying the same thing, Lincoln Yards will essentially accomplish the same regardless, creating a whole new Chicago neighborhood along the river between Wicker Park and Lincoln Park.
Now, the proximity that Lincoln Yards will have to the river is important. One of the major attractions of downtown Chicago is the beautifully landscaped River Walk.
It’s complete with floating gardens, sculptures, a promenade, places to eat, ice cream stands, and Lincoln Yards is no doubt banking off of that, at least in part, in terms of site selection.
The master plans, as they stand right now, outline how around 21 acres of the proposed 55 acres comprising this site will be “Park Central open space.” They’re looking at just over 11 acres of park space and over six acres of landscaped open space, and 3.5 acres of River Walk and this to me is one of the major pluses of the development.
I love the 50/50 balance of nature and vertical construction being planned for Lincoln Yards, and I will say that the renderings of the park and open spaces look wonderful.
We will be sure to include a link to the master plans in the show notes if you are interested in checking it out for yourself.
And the master plan itself was created by partnership between the architectural firms, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, who themselves are based in Chicago and Boston, Massachusetts-based, CBT Architects, both of whom excel at master planning.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, in particular, have emerged as a really highly sought after firm for master planning, in particular, in Chicago.
They’re also handling the master planning of The 78, of course, and I was browsing the BuildCentral database, and we have around 75 large projects in various stages of planning and construction with work being done on them by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in some capacity, so they are definitely quite prolific.
And park space aside, thus far Lincoln Yards has already completed a new public soccer field. It’s called Fleet Field. It’s operational, people play on it, however, that is definitely a far cry from their originally planned soccer stadium.
They were trying to build a soccer stadium as part of Lincoln Yards. It was going to be the first development in Lincoln Yards, and they were planning it alongside the Ricketts Family in Chicago, a wealthy Chicago family.
They’re the owner of the Cubs Baseball Team, but nonetheless, Fleet Field basically stands as the first completed portion of the Lincoln Yards project and soon to follow will be the two office buildings, I think both somewhere between 200 and 350 feet high respectively, and those will be located just south of the current C.H. Robinson headquarters in Chicago.
Now, remember, these small projects only mark the beginning of what will eventually be around 15 million square feet of office, residential, retail, entertainment space.
I think some of the other road work and improvement aspects of the project are definitely worth going into a bit. They are actually exciting in their own right, especially to myself and other native Chicagoan’s. They are likely going to build two new vehicular bridges over the river.
Very useful for traffic easement, as well as extending the 606 across the river, which will be around a 1300 foot extension when that’s complete and that to me is special.
For those of you unfamiliar with what the Chicago 606 is, it’s about 2.7 miles of elevated biking and running lanes with some added park and multi-use space, but this is the 606 in the summer is gorgeous. I love to bike on it. I do it myself quite often, so that is going to be quite cool.
And I would like to bring you up to speed on what is happening with Lincoln Yards currently. It is the second week of August 2019 so where does it stand? What is happening with it right now? And I wanted to bring you up to speed on its current status, particularly because I think it will afford us a great segue into being able to discuss Sterling Bay, it’s developer.
They are an extremely interesting company who enjoyed a meteoric rise in the real estate development market, and they’re certainly worth spending some time on. So to give you an update on the current status of the Lincoln Yards project, you should know first that longtime Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated a while ago, that he would not be seeking a third term in office.
This was a shock to Sterling Bay, due to the fact that it was he who in a great way had been pushing Lincoln Yards forward. His successor, Lori Lightfoot, turned out to be less enthused about allocating $1.3 billion in TIF financing to the project, which is understandable.
Regardless, as of April of this year, Sterling Bay was awarded the financing due in great part, I think, to their adaptability to the circumstances. We will be going into that more later, but essentially Lori Lightfoot threw the gauntlet and Sterling Bay picked it up. To quote from another Chicago Tribune article, written by Ryan Ori and Kori Rumore from June of this year.
They were awarded the financing by promising to “Award more construction contracts to women and minority-owned businesses.” I think that’s a commendable action on their part. The financing is in place and it is simply a waiting game now. I expect to see the Lincoln Yards site begin to move forward in earnest quite soon and I believe full build-out should last around 10 years.
Now, getting into Sterling Bay a little bit. Simply promising to award more construction contracts to women and minority-owned companies is only one of a number of concessions that they have gladly made in order to push Lincoln Yards forward as well as establish themselves as one of the top developers in the region.
Following public feedback in Chicago, they also doubled the amount of affordable housing that was originally planned as part of Lincoln Yards. I think that was from 300 units originally to 600 units currently.
But aside from being able to work with aldermen and city officials and community members in order to meet their needs, the highly impressive recent string of successes that Sterling Bay has had in just doing what they do, developing speaks a lot for itself as well.
I would again like to turn to the Chicago Tribune to an article of theirs that came out on March 22nd of this year, again written by Ryan Ori, who has been following Sterling Bay and Lincoln Yards quite closely.
Sterling Bay last year completed the two largest acquisitions in the firm’s history, buying the two tower Prudential Plaza office Complex for 680 million and paying 510 million for Groupon’s sprawling headquarters building on the river at 600 West Chicago Avenue.
So spending over a billion dollars in acquisitions last year out while planning the $6 billion Lincoln Yards project all the while certainly tells you something.
We at BuildCentral had been tracking a number of their ongoing projects and just sifting through our data a lot of stuff of theirs jumps out. They really made their bones in developing parts of the old industrial district of Chicago called Fulton Market.
And the project that really brought them into the limelight was definitely a development of theirs in Fulton Market that’s now open, it’s called 1KFulton, all one word. They essentially bought an old cold storage facility, one of the oldest in Chicago and rehabbed it to the point where they were able to lease it to Google for their Midwest Headquarters.
Some of their other stuff going on right now, they have an office building under construction at three 333 North Green Street in Chicago with GroupM Worldwide is serving as the major tenant for that.
I think they will be taking over six or so floors of that structure. Our research actually uncovered that a building permit was just recently issued for the build-out work of the GroupM tenant space for that, so that is going on.
And while Sterling Bay is definitely a Chicago-based company they have been branching out into other markets. The 545 Wyn Project in Miami jumps to mind. That’s 545 W-Y-N is how it’s spelled and that is an $80 million or so project. I think it’s a 10 story office building. They’re going to be doing some ground floor retail.
Our research shows that that just got underway in January of this year, it looks like they have John Moriarty & Associates acting as the GC for that. The general contractor, Gensler, handled the design work.
They’ve done past projects in Oregon, I think past projects in Utah and upon first impressions, their portfolio is extensive. It’s remarkable, but it really wasn’t until recently that they became so publicly high profile.
The firm has been around since 1987 and was started by a partnership between Scott Goodman, who has since left to start Bluestar Properties and Craig Golden, who has since left himself as well in order to start Farpoint Development.
Now, the current CEO of Sterling Bay is a gentleman named Andy Gloor, and he is really the architect of what the firm is today. You can read a brief public bio of him on the Sterling Bay website.
That’s www.sterlingbay.com, and in it states, “Andy led Sterling Bay to become a pioneer of their urban model of innovation districts in Chicago and to anchor its developments with leading corporations.
Recent high profile development and redevelopment projects completed by Sterling Bay, under Andy’s leadership, include corporate headquarters for McDonald’s, Google, Hillshire brands, C.H. Robinson, Dyson, Glassdoor, and Gogo.”
Now, remember, I mentioned that it was the 1KFulton Project in the Fulton Market district of Chicago that really puts Sterling Bay on the map, and it was under Andy’s watch that that happened.
1KFulton again, was an old cold storage facility, a really beautiful old building, 14 foot ceilings built in 1923, and it ended up being over 530 square feet at full build-out. And this style of adaptive reuse is really Sterling Bay’s calling card. It’s their specialty. That is what they have certainly come to be known for.
A prime example of their adeptness at this was 2229 South Halstead Street in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. Now, that was a 68,000 square foot building that they paid 2.6 million for in 2009, right after the real estate crash.
And they were able to flip it for $17.7 million in 2017, and while that return, in particular, stands out, there are numerous other cases that one could point to in which Sterling Bay is getting three to four times their initial investment out of properties.
And it is important to note that they don’t just flip properties or build to suit for corporations. They also invest in properties, they manage many of their own properties, and they have their own general contracting and development management services as well. They’re all-rounders.
And just to take a step back to their leadership to strategy as well. I had mentioned that following in the wake of Lori Lightfoot becoming the Chicago Mayor, I had mentioned that Sterling Bay had promised to be more diverse and inclusive in who they award construction contracts to in order to keep the momentum going forward for projects like Lincoln Yards.
But you know what does a promise like that for a company look like? If you’re trying to be more diverse and inclusive, what can you do? What kind of action can you do to prove that you are making strides to keep your promise?
Well, back in June of this year, they hired their first director of diversity and strategic development, an extremely successful woman in her own right, a woman named Keiana Barrett.
And to quote from Sterling Bay’s own press release about her hiring, this came out June 21st, 2019, “In her new role, Barrett will lead Sterling Bay’s efforts to develop and implement strategic programs that forge a diverse, inclusive community, culture, and climate within the company through the continuous evaluation of potential barriers to achieving standards in DEIA.”
Now, DEIA that is Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility. And the role I should mention in which Keiana Barrett is now occupying at Sterling Bay, it had never existed before.
It was created just for her. And I understand that one’s immediate thought might be that perhaps creating this role is simply a means to an end. “We will make these promises and hire this woman so that Lincoln Yards will become a reality, not necessarily because diversity and inclusion are necessarily a priority of ours.” That could be a first thought that you have.
Well, to that and I would like to refer back to CEO Andy Gloor’s short bio available on these Sterling Bay’s website, “Andy is actively involved with Misericordia, a Chicago organization supporting persons with developmental disabilities. He also serves on the board of Cara,” that’s C-A-R-A, “a Chicago nonprofit helping to break the cycle of homelessness.”
I believe that it is evident that Sterling Bay is a socially aware company, able to adapt its expertise to each of its individual projects as well as welcoming new progressive work environments within its own community.
I would actually like to thank Andy Gloor for his support of the Chicago Misericordia Organization, in particular, I myself have an aunt whom I love very much and who greatly benefits from their services. So, Mr. Gloor, you have my sincere gratitude for that. Thank you.”
Well, thank you, folks. That’s all we have time for today. If you like learning about Sterling Bay and Lincoln Yards, we have a timeline and a description of all the Sterling Bay projects from our database at our blog found at www.buildcentral.com.
There are another four projects expected to start in the third quarter and fourth quarter of this year, so I suggest you check it out. You can also find sales tips and our other podcasts there including our spotlight on David Beckham’s soccer super project in Florida, which we discussed two episodes ago. I hope you enjoyed the show.
We will be back with more content, news and discussion about the world of construction soon, but in the meantime, if you could hit the subscribe button on whatever podcast platform you are using, the listening, whether it’s Apple Podcast, Google Play, Stitcher, or whatever else and give us a follow. That would be amazing.
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