Target quietly cuts ribbon on new Little Village warehouse as activists protest potential truck traffic

No media was invited to a ceremony to announce the opening of the new facility while almost three dozen demonstrated outside.

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Kim Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, stands in front of a billboard that warns that trucks from a new warehouse threaten public health with added pollution.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Close to three dozen environmental and community activists held a more than hour-long protest outside the police-guarded gate of a controversial Target distribution warehouse in Little Village Tuesday, saying the new facility will add an estimated 700 polluting diesel trucks a day to an already congested stretch of South Pulaski Road.

The action took place as about 100 people attended an indoor ribbon-cutting ceremony at the 1 million square foot warehouse at 3501 S. Pulaski Road. Unlike most ceremonial events to mark a business’ opening, media was banned from the indoor event despite Target’s insistence that the warehouse is a positive addition to the community, promising 2,000 jobs starting at $18 an hour.

Only one elected official, Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd), attended the event, while protesters held signs outside that read “Don’t Target us.”

The warehouse project has been controversial from the day it was announced three years ago by developer Hilco Redevelopment Partners. Community activists had fought for more than a decade to shut down the Crawford coal-fired power plant that was eventually closed in 2012. But the addition of a warehouse that would substantially increase truck traffic and subsequent air pollution was unwelcome in the Latino-majority community.

“The best we can get is more trailer trucks in our neighborhood,” said Little Village Environmental Justice Organization executive director Kim Wasserman, who helped lead the charge to shut down the Crawford plant. “That ain’t right.”

Calling the addition of another large source of pollution in a low-income community of color racist, Wasserman vowed to keep up the fight.

“We are fighting against environmental racism in this city and we are going to win,” she told the crowd.

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Chicago police stood guard in front of a front gate at the new Target warehouse in Little Village. Activists say truck traffic will create more pollution in a community that suffers poor air quality.

Brett Chase

Community outrage grew even more intensely after an almost 400-foot smokestack from the old power plant was taken down with explosives Easter weekend of 2020, creating a giant dust cloud that covered the Little Village community.

“There are vocal folks who are upset with this project and they have their reasons,” Rodriguez said in an interview. “My focus is holding Hilco responsible for the wrongs they have done and making sure that Target is a good new neighbor.”

Rodriguez said he felt responsible as the alderman in the area to attend the ribbon cutting. He said he has a commitment from Hilco and Target that trucks to and from the facility will not cut through nearby residential streets and will remain on Pulaski to and from the Interstate 55 exit close to the warehouse. “I share those concerns and don’t want more trucks in the neighborhood,” he said.

But he welcomes the economic development.

“Job opportunities are important,” he said.

In a fact sheet, Target said it “built relationships” with Rodriguez and others in the community and noted the agreement on truck routes.

A Target spokeswoman declined to comment on the truck traffic estimate of 700, which Wasserman’s organization came up with by counting trucks at other Chicago-area distribution centers.

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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