* Greg Hinz…
For Chicago business, the good times may be about to end at City Hall. Bigly.
The combination of a populist wave that could capture a majority of the City Council and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s surprise decision not to seek a third term could halt a nearly-three-decade stretch under which mayors and docile aldermen occasionally made business groan with measures like a higher minimum wage and mandatory sick leave, but more often were a willing partner in trying to lure new growth and expansion. […]
“We’re at a real crossroads,” says Jack Lavin, CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. “The last two mayors (Emanuel and Richard M. Daley) knew that cooperating with business gets you (economic) growth. That growing Chicago could go away.”
“There’s nothing good I see on the horizon,” says Howard Tullman, ex-CEO of the 1871 incubator and the godfather of sorts of the city’s now rapidly expanding tech community.
Emanuel in particular was “unbelievably supportive,” Tullman said. And it paid off with “tens of thousands of new jobs,” many of them at companies such as Motorola Mobility, Gogo, ADM, McDonald’s, Walgreen, Kraft-Heinz and dozens of others that moved either their regional or world headquarters here or shifted large tech operations to the city, lured by large numbers of college graduates here.
Emanuel is known as a mayor who doesn’t hesitate to pick up the phone or get on a plane to lure businesses to Chicago and help home-grown companies thrive.
“There’s definitely uncertainty when a decision as unexpected as this is announced,” said SpotHero CEO and co-founder Mark Lawrence, who praised Emanuel for touting Chicago businesses both nationally and internationally.
Emanuel’s office facilitated introductions in Israel between SpotHero and Google mapping unit Waze, leading to the recent announcement that the companies, along with the city, are installing beacons along Chicago’s 5 miles of lower roads to help drivers navigate underground when GPS fails. […]
“I think there will be some breath holding and some postponing of some decisions for sure, because I think technology businesses are no different than any other business. They want to be sure there’s a certain stability and understanding of the business environment,” Tullman said.
Chicago’s fiscal picture improved under Emanuel, said Laurence Msall, president of the non-partisan Civic Federation, which tracks the city’s finances. He cited Emanuel’s move to end the borrowing for operations and selling bonds to pay off maturing debt.
“It will remain to be seen whether the next mayor will continue to embrace these practices or slip into such financial lapses,” Msall said. “It’s difficult to know who the next mayor will be or whether they will be able to match Mayor Emanuel’s persona and dedication to economic development. But many of the structural improvements that Mayor Emanuel can rightfully take credit for will continue beyond his administration.”
An adviser close to Emanuel said he thinks the announcement was made now so that candidates more to the mayor’s liking still had enough time to enter the race
But that’s not the only big question for real estate investors as Emanuel heads for the exit. Developers now face uncertainty from a wide-open field of candidates to replace him and are left to wonder whether the city’s next mayor will be as friendly to them as its departing one.
The prospect of rent control could instill fear into investors that have made big bets on the city’s booming apartment market, while office landlords are about to lose one of the key pitchmen for the plethora of companies that have moved to the city and filled their spaces.
Then there’s the cloud over what Emanuel’s departure will mean for a series of large-scale development projects that are in the works, many of which were accelerated as prospective destinations for e-commerce giant Amazon as the Seattle-based company searches for a second headquarters location.
Emanuel’s successor will face landscape-changing decisions about the 53-acre Lincoln Yards project that developer Sterling Bay has proposed to completely redraw the North Branch of the Chicago River between Lincoln Park and Bucktown. Other tough calls will need to be made about the 78, Related Midwest’s 62-acre proposal along the river just south of the Loop, as well as the continued redevelopment of the Fulton Market District.
* Exit Rahm: Emanuel’s successes are also less impressive than they might first appear. Chicago’s economic turnaround was part of a national boom. Other American cities have been rallying economically, too, and often at a faster rate. Tech is growing all over, and Chicago hasn’t cracked the elite club in venture-capital investing, remaining significantly behind the big four coastal centers (the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, and Boston). And unlike the other largest American cities, Chicago continues to see its population fall, as blacks flee in droves and Mexican immigration dries up.
* Mayor 1% Rahm Emanuel Will Not Be Missed in Chicago: But in the Windy City, he will always be remembered by many as Mayor 1%, symbolizing the arrogance and impatience of those who would shape society to celebrate entitlement, fame and wealth.
* Laquan McDonald was shot down by police, and he took the mayor’s career down with him: It is much easier to convince a developer to build a multistory office complex in the West Loop than to get the developer to consider a similar project in Woodlawn. Most developers are about making money, not reviving struggling neighborhoods.
* Rahm Emanuel denies Chicago is a ‘tale of two cities’: “No world-class global city has a failing central business district. It is not in our interest as a city to pit one side of the city against another. Our challenge is to make that central business district work for all parts of…Chicago,” Emanuel said.