Hilco Redevelopment Partners' 1.3 million square foot facility Exchange 55. Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicaog

LITTLE VILLAGE — The developer who owns Exchange 55, a Target distribution center in Little Village, plans to build a trailer storage site nearby.

Construction on the trailer storage buildings, at 3307 S. Lawndale Ave. just 900 feet from the Exchange 55 site, is set to begin early next year, said Nick Pullara, Hilco Revelopment Partners’ vice president of development. The redevelopment of the Exchange 55 site made headlines in 2020 because of a botched implosion of an old coal smokestack at the site.

Pullara, speaking at a Thursday night community meeting, said truck traffic is expected to decrease with new site operations. He promised the trucks traveling in and out will not go into residential parts of the neighborhood or use Lawndale Avenue north of 33rd Street.

Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) said Hilco officials signed a written agreement that trucks traveling to and from the site would not go into residential areas of the Little Village community.

Right now, about 700 truck drivers are traveling in and out of the site each day, Rodriguez said. Under new plans, 400-500 trucks would be traveling in and out, he said.

“I have a personal stake in that as a resident of” the area, Rodriguez said.

Before acquiring the property, Pullara said developers counted roughly 690 vehicular movements per day from the prior operation and clarified the project’s projected traffic volumes for the Target operations is roughly 400 vehicular movements per day.

“Fifty percent of those 400 projected movements will just be between Exchange 55 and the Lawndale fleet storage yard, which would reduce the volumes that are on Pulaski Road even further,” Pullara said.

The trailer storage yard has been entered into the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s voluntary remediation program, according to a slide shown at the meeting.

Credit: Hilco
Credit: Hilco

About 60 neighbors tuned into the meeting Thursday, but because of the extreme weather affecting the area, Rodriguez plans to hold another meeting on the project in January. Details for that will be announced soon.

Current traffic volumes, expected traffic flow for the Exchange 55 site and a study of how much revenue from the project benefits the neighborhood are expected to be shared at the January meeting. Developers are also expected to address whether Target has plans to commit to converting to a fully electronic truck fleet in the future.

The Thursday update comes after City Council passed a resolution in July calling on Lightfoot’s office to release the full findings of the botched implosion at the Hilco site from former Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, whose summary report into the incident was published earlier this year. 

The measure Rodriguez introduced is non-binding, meaning it does not compel the mayor to do anything, and it now falls to the city’s Department of Law — which is under Lightfoot’s purview — to make the call. Lightfoot previously said city law bars her from releasing the full report, but Rodriguez and others disputed that

Ferguson’s summarized report pointed the finger at three unnamed city officials, including one senior public health department employee. The watchdog said that official should be disciplined or fired for failing to act on knowledge the implosion would be disastrous. Health department leaders instead gave that person a written reprimand.

The implosion at the Crawford site has been a flashpoint in the fight over environmental racism in Little Village. The April 2020 explosion coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving neighbors concerned over how the dust might exacerbate virus symptoms. 

Activists begged the city to halt the demolition during the pandemic, but it went on regardless. Hilco Redevelopment Partners was slapped with $68,000 in fines for the mishap and forced to pay an additional $370,000 in a settlement with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

Hilco’s warehouse opened as a Target distribution center in July 2021, despite protests by community members.

Read all of Block Club’s coverage about Hilco here.

Block Club reporter Madison Savedra contributed to this report.