New warehouse in Little Village advances despite environmental groups’ protest

SHARE New warehouse in Little Village advances despite environmental groups’ protest

Kim Wasserman, executive director of Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, holds a press conference at City Hall. | Manny Ramos/Sun-Times

Residents from Little Village on Thursday demanded the city halt plans to develop a warehouse and distribution center on a site that once was home to a coal plant on the Southwest Side.

But their demands at a protest at City Hall went unheeded as the Chicago Plan Commission approved a proposal from Hilco Redevelopment Partners, a Northbrook-based company, to move forward with the $100 million project. The developers still need approval from the City Council before they can start construction on the 70-acre site near Interstate 55 and Pulaski Road.

The Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) — along with other local and national environmental groups — fear the warehouse would increase air pollution with a large number of semi-trucks driving to and from the facility.

“We are here to demand that Hilco is required to work with the Little Village community to ensure the final use of this site does not negatively impact the health of residents,” Kim Wasserman, the executive director of the organization, said.

Wasserman also accused Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) of selling out the community to polluters and participating in backroom dealing.

Munoz rejected those claims.

“Multiple meetings have been had between myself, Hilco and LVEJO, and all the data they’ve asked for have been provided on [Hilco’s] website,” Munoz said.

The 1-million-square-foot facility will be built on the site where Crawford Power Plant once operated. The Crawford plant was forced to shut down in 2012 when community groups pressured the city to close it, citing the negative health impacts the plant’s presence had on residents. Now, the same organizers fear this new facility will bring the same problems.

“I got involved years ago because my 3-month-old couldn’t breathe because he had asthma due to that coal power plant,” Wasserman said. “Tomorrow I have to take my 10-year-old daughter to get her first prescription for an asthma inhaler.”

Munoz acknowledges the environmental concerns in Little Village and said he has worked with Hilco to make the project as green as possible. This includes the installation of charging stations for electric semi-trucks and solar panels on the facility’s roof.

“We will be engaging with all future tenants to incentivise and encourage electric vehicle traffic,” Munoz said.

Hilco anticipates the project will bring 300 construction jobs and 178 permanent jobs to the area once the facility is fully operational. They hope to begin construction in spring 2019 and open in 2020.

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.

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