The Lincoln Yards project, proposed by Chicago-based developer Sterling Bay, has received a great deal of opposition from community members since its announcement last July. Concerns have been raised about traffic congestion, preserving existing structures, and a possible TIF District, which would capture increases in property taxes to fund certain aspects of the project. Sterling Bay’s initial plan, which included an ambitious list of transportation extensions, sports fields, commercial and residential spaces, green spaces, art installations, and a 20,000-seat sports and entertainment arena, may have hit a roadblock Tuesday when Alderman Brian Hopkins announced he would oppose building the large sports and concert arena in his ward.
The Live Nation-owned venue was the focal point of opposition from the strongly united independent music community here in Chicago. The Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL), which is comprised of more than a dozen venues and ‘acts to secure the long-term future of these and other venues for the benefit of our communities and emerging artists’ has been petitioning and attending forums against the stadium from the start. Initially, Live Nation’s Mark Campana assured venue owners that he wants to be a ‘good neighbor’ and that putting Live Nation- controlled venues wouldn’t hurt the indie music scene in Chicago. CIVL explained, they are not against competition and admit it exists amongst each other. However, venues like The Hideout, The Subterranean, Thalia Hall, and many more, could not stand up against a monopoly like Live Nation.
Hopkins announced the main attraction of the entertainment district is to be scrapped after a survey revealed more than 50% of residents were opposed. Although there is a possibility that the project may still include smaller venues amongst its restaurants and theaters, “Live Nation will have no ownership interest in any of these venues”. However, nobody has yet seen any official revised documents about the ownership of these venues and CIVL says the fight is not over. With the Alderman’s statement comes more questions about the reality of this project, and ways in which Live Nation might be be continuing to try to push through some of their plans.
We can assume that a space like this with so much money, plans, and stakeholders becomes increasingly complicated, so we spoke with Rachel Weber, a Professor of Urban Planning and Policy at UIC, to help understand both the economic and geographic implications such a development might have on the music community. Weber referenced a book by Richard Lloyd (not the guitarist for Television, but a sociologist) who explains that small music venues get a lot of their cachet and marketing power from where they’re located. Wicker Park has a long, historical evolution as a place for music and artists. Even 30 years ago, musicians were working in the restaurants and bars, building a fan base by talking to customers, playing at the bar, and contributing to the nightlife. Although it’s different now, older entertainment districts have tended to evolve more organically, and the resulting mix of uses and building styles gives the district some of its value. She describes the importance of The Hideout, then and now, and the sense of adventure felt upon going there.
Not only does adding larger and more generic venues change where the money is being spent, but it also changes the attitude of the area as a whole. The Hideout is situated on the border of the proposed Lincoln Yards project, which could reduce its stand-alone and hidden allure even if Live Nation doesn’t build a stadium or large venue.
Developments on this project are to continue, as community members fight to delay voting on financial support for the project until a new Mayor is in office and more concrete information becomes accessible.