CITY HALL — A proposal to transform a former coal-fired power plant in Little Village into a massive distribution center on the city’s Southwest Side was passed unanimously by City Council Thursday.
The approval gives the Northbrook-based developer Hilco the green light to move forward with its plan to convert the land into a 1-million-square-foot warehouse and distribution center at the site of the old Crawford Coal Plant.
City Council approval comes despite vehement opposition from some Little Village residents and environmental groups.
After the vote, Roberto Perez, Hilco CEO, said he was pleased City Council approved Hilco’s plan to remediate and develop the former power plant site.
“We are confident that this project will revitalize this obsolete industrial real estate and bring new economic development and jobs to Chicago’s Southwest Side,” he said in a statement.
Opponents of the plan said the new warehouse would increase diesel congestion and have a drastic impact on the health of Little Village residents.
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization Executive Director Kim Wasserman said the 200 trucks the distribution center is expected to add to the streets around 35th Street and Pulaski Road would make the already-polluted air that her children breathe worse.
“We already have elevated levels of particulates in the air,” Wasserman said. “This will make it astronomical.”
On Thursday, Wasserman said she was “surprised at how quickly this whole process has happened” compared to other projects of this scale. The Hilco site, Unilever and General Iron on the Southeast Side carry “considerable environment health implications.”
“To see this project fast tracked and voted on with limited to no information is really disappointing,” she said.
Last month, Hilco Development Partners unveiled plans to create a 1-million-square-foot warehouse and distribution center at the former Crawford Generating Station site.
During the two community meetings, the project drew sharp criticism and opposition from Little Village residents, who said the neighborhood was already inundated by diesel trucks from other industry in the community and would further exacerbate respiratory issues.
During the Plan Commission meeting, retiring Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) said the projects “benefits outweigh the critiques.”
The $100 million project, called Exchange 55, is expected to be used as a distribution site for e-commerce and logistics companies, Hilco CEO Roberto Perez told Little Village residents during the meetings.
The Crawford Power Plant was shut down in 2012 after community-led efforts raised concerns about the impact coal pollution was having on the health of Little Village residents. The company purchased the 70-acre site in the Little Village Industrial Corridor in 2017.
Hilco plans to begin demolition later this year and remediate the land in 2019. If all goes well, the project is expected to be completed in 2020.
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