City to cite General Iron’s owner after building collapse

A building containing asbestos was discovered to have a caved-in roof since April but Reserve Management Group didn’t report it to Chicago officials, the city alleges.

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A car and metal-shredding operation proposed for East 116th Street along the Calumet River is awaiting a city permit.

Reserve Management Group has long operated multiple businesses at its industrial campus at 11600 S. Burley Ave. The city alleges a building collapsed in April but didn’t notify authorities.

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The company seeking to open a car-shredding operation on the Southeast Side is facing citations for local building and health code violations related to a building that officials believe has been partially collapsed since at least the spring. 

City officials said Thursday they discovered last week that a roof partially collapsed on a vacant building at Reserve Management Group’s industrial campus at 11600 S. Burley Ave. and that the company “failed to maintain the vacant building in sound condition and good repair as required by code, failed to monitor and maintain the vacant building in a secure and sound condition and failed to notify the city of the partial roof collapse in a timely manner.”

Citations will be issued by both the city’s Department of Buildings and the Department of Public Health, according to a city statement. The health department is expected to issue a citation for failing to maintain the asbestos inside the structure, though the city said there is no immediate health or environmental threat from airborne asbestos.

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RMG bought General Iron in 2019 with plans to relocate the metal-shredding operation from Lincoln Park to the Southeast Side where the company has long operated other businesses. The company had already started preparing the site for the move.

After Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced in May that she would suspend the permit application for the new RMG operation, which is already built, the company sued the city and is asking a judge to force Chicago to give the business the go-ahead to open.

An RMG spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The city said that a representative of RMG stated that the partially collapsed roof was discovered in April but no notification was given to the city until July 21 when a wrecking company sought a demolition permit. The building was vacant and the city did not indicate what it had been used for previously, although the company has other scrap metal businesses on the property.

The demolition permit will not be issued until public health officials complete an investigation to determine that there are no environmental issues related to the building collapse, the city’s buildings department said in a statement. The department also said a dust-mitigation and air-quality control and monitoring plan will also be required.

The city said asbestos professionals will be on site once the demolition does proceed to ensure that the material is handled properly. 

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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