MCKINLEY PARK — Developers plans to replace a large industrial building in McKinley Park with a cold storage facility, but neighbors are concerned about potential pollution and preserving the building’s historical architecture.
Developers with Karis Cold presented their plans at a community meeting Wednesday night. The group has applied for a special-use permit to demolish a warehouse at 3815 S. Ashland Ave. and build a nearly 100,000-square-foot cold storage facility they expect will be used to store produce, meat and other food products, attorney Robert L. Gamrath III said at the meeting.
The facility will be rectangular and painted white to ensure temperatures inside remain low. Gamrath said they plan to line the side of the building facing Ashland Avenue with trees to make it more visually appealing.
If the city approves the project, the company expects to demolish the old building in May, development manager Andy Laue told neighbors. The new building could be finished by early 2024, he said.
Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, urged developers to leave part of the old building intact and add the new facility behind its facade. He said that could help preserve the historical identity of McKinley Park, one of Chicago’s first industrial neighborhoods.
“We’re destroying these first-class buildings one by one, block by block, so it would be wonderful if this corporation could honor Chicago’s architecture and integrate the building’s facade and tower into these plans,” Miller said during the meeting. “Another blank wall on Ashland is another blank wall, and I think it really dumbs down our city that’s known for its architecture.”
Gamrath said company leaders considered preserving some of the old building, but they decided not to because it’s covered in graffiti, isn’t structurally sound and the size of the lot isn’t big enough to accommodate a new building and the old facade.
But the developers hope to commission local artists to create a sculpture and mural near the building to make it more attractive to passersby, Gamrath said.
Another neighbor expressed concern about the emissions that could come from the trucks traveling to the facility, saying there have been multiple industrial developments in the area.
“It’s nice to say that the building will look nice with trees along Ashland, but I look at it and think about how there are all these little babies in this area with asthma and heart problems,” a 78-year-old resident said during the meeting. “Obviously, this building won’t lower emissions. You say it’ll only increase them a little, but you’re compounding the problem.”
The company completed a study that showed emissions expected to be generated from the facility are “significantly below” national requirements and the facility “meets all the standards the facility is required to meet,” Gamrath said.
The developers also plan to come up with ways to offset emissions, but it’s too early to determine exactly how that will work, Gamrath said.
Ald. Nicole Lee (11th) thanked the representatives from Karis Cold for participating in three meetings about this development so far and commended their “willingness to listen to the community.”
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