The Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has released its North Branch Industrial Corridor Modernization Plan. This framework plan is the first component of the City of Chicago's industrial corridor modernization initiative, which is intended to review each of the City's 26 industrial corridors.

The North Branch consists of approximately 760 acres of property along the Chicago River between Kinzie on the south and Webster on the north. Most of the property has been zoned within a planned manufacturing district (PMD) since the City's first PMD was created in 1988. PMD zoning limits uses to those which support manufacturing and industrial uses and prohibits conflicting land uses, including residential. DPD is now engaging in a planning process to review the viability of PMDs.

The framework plan contemplates the creation of three subareas: the north subarea, generally located between Fullerton and North Avenues and west of Goose Island; the central subarea, between North and Chicago Avenues; and the south subarea, between Chicago Avenue and Kinzie (see map below). The central subarea would remain zoned PMD. The north subarea would be re-zoned to a manufacturing (M) district, and the south subarea would be re-zoned to a downtown service (DS) district, both of which prohibit residential uses. An overlay district would also be established for the purpose of supplementing the regulations in these zoning districts in these specific subareas.

Chicago Department of Planning and Development chart of subareas
Source: Chicago Department of Planning and Development, 2017

Existing uses would continue to be permitted. In the north subarea, property owners and developers could apply for zoning changes to business (B) or commercial (C) districts with a maximum base floor area ratio (FAR) of 3.0 and the opportunity to bonus to a total 6.5 FAR. The central subarea would remain zoned PMD, with a maximum 3.0 FAR. Property owners and developers in the south subarea could apply for zoning changes to the downtown mixed-use (DX) district with a maximum base FAR of 5.0 and the opportunity to bonus to a total 8.1 FAR.

The proposed framework would require payment of an industrial corridor use fee imposed on applicants seeking to rezone property within the North Branch from the M or DS zoning districts to B, C or DX districts, as applicable. It would also provide for bonus fees for applicants seeking additional floor area under a new North Branch bonus for the north subarea or the existing Neighborhoods Opportunity Bonus for the south subarea. The framework plan does not yet identify the amount of the use fee or floor area bonus fee.

DPD is accepting comments on the framework plan until April 18, 2017. Additional information, including zoning ordinance text amendments required to implement the plan and fees, is anticipated later this week. The plan will require review and approval by the Chicago Plan Commission, and the zoning ordinance text amendments will require City Council approval. Plan Commission review is anticipated in April 2017 and the City Council process will proceed this summer following Plan Commission approval.