What’s the future of Chicago’s planned manufacturing districts? Does anybody care? Do we still even need them?
These are more than academic questions in at least one part of Chicago – the vast tract of gradually emptying land between Clybourn and Elston on either side of the Cortland bridge.
Preserved as a manufacturing district in the early 80’s to protect it from the encroaching residential and commercial development, the area’s changed dramatically in the past couple of years as two massive plants have moved out and their old buildings demolished.
The area was incorporated into the new 2nd Ward a couple of years ago. The new Alderman has sent strong signals that he’s ready to let the market dictate retail development, along with condo and apartment towers that could take advantage of potentially beautiful river views.
But North Branch Works sees a very different opportunity. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, executive director Mike Holzer tells us, to redefine industrial corridors and manufacturing districts to accommodate modern manufacturing processes. A new community could rise there, he says. A web of tech-based jobs for today’s economy, all in a city that desperately needs to put people to work.
It’s a big battle, brewing just beneath the surface of public attention. But it says a lot about what we want our city to be in the next few decades.
You can see North Branch Works’ proposals HERE.