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As Target Warehouse Opens On Little Village Hilco Site, Alderman Celebrates New Jobs — While Activists Vow To Keep Fighting

The controversial warehouse will bring 2,000 jobs to Little Village, Ald. Michael Rodriguez said. But environmental justice groups say diesel trucks will further pollute their neighborhood.

Edith Tovar, an organizer at the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, assured residents they would shut down the new warehouse.
Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago
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LITTLE VILLAGE — Little Village activists and some residents vowed to continue their fight to shut down the controversial Target Corp. warehouse even as Hilco Redevelopment Partners cut the ribbon on the 1.3-million-square-foot facility during a private ceremony Tuesday.

For the second day in a row, members of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, El Foro del Pueblo, Unete and Mi Villita Neighbors gathered at 33rd Street and Pulaski Road, saying they would continue their mission to shut down the warehouse and have the facility converted into a community space. 

“This campaign is not over,” said Edith Tovar, of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. “Just because they are doing the ribbon-cutting ceremony doesn’t mean that our campaign ends here.”

Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) attended the private ceremony. He said Wednesday that the facility will bring jobs to the area at a critical time.

“Target is bringing 2,000 jobs to the neighborhood, and after the pandemic, a loss of jobs and wealth to our community, jobs are important,” Rodriguez said.

Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
Edith Tovar, organizer at the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, assured residents they would shut down the new warehouse.

Monday, activists took aim at similar warehouses being approved on the South and West sides, calling for a moratorium so experts can study the cumulative impact of industry in these communities. 

Hilco pitched neighbors on a plan for a 1-million-square-foot facility to replace the former Crawford coal plant in 2018. But many neighbors opposed it, saying it would exacerbate the diesel traffic and congestion in Little Village.

Despite community opposition, the plan was approved and received $19.7 million in tax subsidies from city officials. 

Demolition was shut down at least twice after a worker died from a 50-foot fall in December 2019 and when Hilco and its contractors imploded the plant’s 378-foot-tall smokestack, covering the neighborhood in a cloud of debris at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The botched implosion resulted in $68,000 fines from the city and another $370,000 in a settlement with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

Rodriguez said he did not choose the Target development, but supports the jobs and said his office got the company to sign an agreement prohibiting large diesel trucks on side streets in the neighborhood.

Related: After Pressure From Residents, Hilco Warehouse Traffic Will Not Be Allowed To Drive Through Residential Streets, Alderman Says

Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
Activists and community members gathered to protest Hilco’s ribbon cutting of the controversial Exchange 55 project being leased by Target Corp.

During the protest, the group reiterated its previous demands for retail giant Target to break its lease and for Hilco to donate the site to the city.

But acknowledging the lease will remain in place — at least for the foreseeable future — the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization called on Target to commit to using an electric fleet of vehicles within a year of being in the neighborhood.

The company has not agreed to this, but said in a statement the warehouse “was designed for sustainability and safety.”

RELATED: As Hilco’s Target Warehouse Opens, Activists Dread More Pollution, Truck Traffic In Little Village: ‘Our Community Is Being Sacrificed’

The corporation said it will employ 2,000 workers at the facility, which will stock nearly 90 local Target stores.

Activists were frustrated by the opening, but said they won’t back down.

“We want remind Little Village residents, and folks who live in environmental justice communities that we are still fighting. We have not lost hope,” Tovar said.

A Hilco representative did not return a request for comment.

Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
El Foro del Pueblo member Rafael Cervantes called attention to the LVEJO billboard behind him.
Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
Community members gathered to protest Hilco’s ribbon cutting of the controversial Exchange 55 project being leased by Target Corp.
Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
Police officers stopped protesters from approaching the facility’s gates.
Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
Activists and community members gathered to protest against Hilco’s ribbon cutting at the controversial Exchange 55 project being leased by Target Corp.

Read all of Block Club’s Hilco coverage here.

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