The stretch of land surrounding the Chicago River that connects Wicker Park/Bucktown to Near North Side/Lincoln Park could get a makeover, but some locals are eager to voice their concerns over how the land should be utilized.

The Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) and Department of Transportation (CDOT) released the North Branch Industrial Corridor Modernization Plan for public comment March 15. The North Branch covers 760 acres of land around the Chicago River and the plan is an effort to rezone and redevelop industrial areas that are currently vacant or underutilized.

The Ranch Triangle Community Conservation Association rejected the proposal, saying it ignores the need for a major park and creates concerns over transportation in the neighborhood.

Opponents of the proposed plan say officials haven’t taken into consideration the nearby developments that would add to density and overall congestion of the neighborhood. A massive mixed-use one is planned at the site of the old Children’s Memorial Hospital at Lincoln and Fullerton avenues. It calls for two luxury apartment towers with 540 units, 60 low-rise condos, 160,000 square feet of retail space, and 150 assisted living units in a seven-story building across the street.

Because of the Union Pacific rail corridor and the Kennedy Expressway, the area along the river is locked in a grid so that there are only through-streets at every four blocks instead of every single block, which makes east-west travel especially challenging.

Another concern for residents is the lack of a major park. While the plan does include 60 acres of wetlands and open space to be created in the next 15 years, opponents argue that the riverwalk space will be too narrow to encourage families and groups to play sports and enjoy the outdoors. 

However, the plan does include a connections between the North Branch Loop Trail to the 606 trail with an active park on the portion of land below the expressway. The draft also includes pedestrian walkways across the river along Blackhawk Street, Ogden Avenue and Augusta Boulevard, and Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street.

The city announced in early April that it would extend the period to accept comments and concerns until May 1. The Department of Planning and Development will host additional community meetings before the May 18 meeting of the Chicago Plan Commission when the plan is expected to be finalized. 

The North Branch is one of 26 industrial areas in the city set to undergo revitalization.