General Iron’s Lincoln Park land will be cleared, possibly for sale

Ald. Brian Hopkins hopes the 20 acres of riverfront land will be sold after the remaining buildings and structures are removed.

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For decades, General Iron shredded cars and other metals at 1909 N. Clifton in Lincoln Park.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

The former General Iron metal-shredding operation in Lincoln Park will be completely cleared of buildings — possibly by the end of the year. It is a move that Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) hopes will move the 20-acre riverfront property a step closer to being sold. 

Under an agreement with the city, General Iron shut down at the end of 2020 and the land was supposed to be completely vacated by March 2021. Despite the slower timetable, Hopkins estimated about three-quarters of the property has been cleared. 

“It seems reasonable to infer that this is part of the owner’s effort to make the property more desirable on the market,” Hopkins said.

The demolition of the remaining buildings at 1909 N. Clifton should begin shortly after Thanksgiving and will take four to six weeks to complete, Hopkins said. 

The alderperson will host a meeting for residents the evening of Nov. 18 to discuss plans. He vowed the demolition would include stringent dust control.

The land is owned by the Labkon family, which sold a majority of General Iron to Reserve Management Group in 2019. Reserve Management’s plan to move the car and scrap-metal shredding business to the Southeast Side set off a firestorm of protest from community members who fought and ultimately stopped the opening of a new operation. 

Reserve Management is challenging Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to deny the Southeast Side permit through a city appeal process. This year, an affiliate applied to resume Lincoln Park operations, a move the city blocked. 

Reserve Management and the Labkons declined to comment through a spokesman.

Leading up to General Iron’s sale, city officials were in contact with real estate developer Sterling Bay, which had hoped to buy the General Iron property as part of a multibillion-dollar residential and commercial redevelopment known as Lincoln Yards. 

City emails reviewed by the Sun-Times suggested that the Labkons were asking too high a price at the time. Emails also showed an interest by the city in moving the business out of Lincoln Park, where neighbors had complained for years about smells and pollution. 

Meanwhile, much of the Southeast Side community protest focused on the move of a polluting business from mostly white, affluent Lincoln Park to a Latino community — a plan that they said was racist. Community members asked why they were receiving a nuisance that North Siders didn’t want as those residents looked forward to a redeveloped riverfront. 

Three South Side groups complained to the federal government, saying that their civil rights were being violated. U.S. housing officials agreed and are now asking the city to formally change its zoning and land-use practices

Hopkins said he hoped the land, which is listed for sale either in three individual parcels or as a whole, would be redeveloped into a mix of residential and retail with some open space. 

The property will likely be sold as-is, leaving the environmental cleanup to the buyer. 

It’s unclear how much remediation will be required. General Iron shredded scrap metal there for decades. 

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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