Wednesday, January 10, 2007

From PMD to Condos? Not if Daley can help it

So, A. Finkl & Sons is leaving it's longtime home on Cortland. For those of you not familiar with the creatures that seem to emerge when you drive down Cortland Ave between Clybourn and Elston, here's a brief synopsis. A. Finkl & Sons is a specialty steel supplier that has been part of Chicago since 1879. Until recently it was family-owned and's being acquired by a German company. In the chain of events since then, Finkl will be leaving their Lincoln Park home and moving to the old Verson Steel site on the South Side. So one would assume the vacated area would then become the latest "conversion." If the answer were only that simple. The area is a planned manufacturing district, or PMD, and is currently only open to industrial development. So therein lies the problem....residential developers are banging down doors to get into what could be a multi-multi-million dollar development, but until it's no longer a PMD only industrial developers can purchase it. According to Crain's, Finkl could get 3 to 4 times as much money from a residential or retail developer than an industrial developer.

Will it happen? Well, Daley has been a big proponent of keeping manufacturing jobs in the city and of PMDs in general, it will be interesting to see what happens. Having lost industry to cheap land in the suburbs, I think Daley would do almost anything to keep industry at the Finkl site, we'll see how "open" he keeps his mind. The potential lack of industrial interest could make it a moot point, but I'm sure he'll be keeping an eye on tax revenues that the site will generate either as industrial or as residential/retail.

So assuming the area's PMD status is removed, what happens next? Right off the bat the bidding war will begin, but what would the vision for the area be? What would this conversion be like? Obviously, the Finkl plant would be razed, but with a blank slate to work with, would it turn into a homogenous area without any character? I have to agree with the Chicagoist on this one...I'd rather keep it industrial if that's going to be the case.

Having grown kind of fond of the Finkl plant, I must say, I'm going to miss it. I always felt like a little kid trying to see what's going on inside and waiting for one of those monstrous machines on wheels emerge. Residential development could be great for the area and it would be nice to see that section of the Chicago River cleaned up. Only time will tell.

Picture courtesy of Erik Unger