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Lincoln Park, Old Town

General Iron’s Lincoln Park Facility Will Soon Be Demolished; Alderman Vows No Repeat Of Hilco Disaster

The city will hold a town hall Nov. 18 to share information and answer questions about the upcoming General Iron demolition.

Scrap metal is brought to General Iron Industries’ Lincoln Park facility in August 2020.
| Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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LINCOLN PARK — General Iron’s Lincoln Park car and metal shredding facility will soon be demolished — and Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) has pledged it will be a more transparent and safer process than the botched Hilco demolition that covered Little Village in dust.

Hopkins shared the news in an email update to his constituents. His office did not answer questions on when the demolition might occur, but city officials are hosting a community hearing about the demolition 6-8 p.m. Nov. 18 at the DePaul Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave.

“At long last, we are about to close the book on the final chapter in the most complicated tale of the North Side’s most notorious polluter, General Iron,” Hopkins wrote.

Demolition of the General Iron site, 1909 N. Clifton St., will be “carefully controlled and closely monitored,” Hopkins said. The metal shredder itself has already been disassembled and removed, so all that remains is taking down last structures and buildings, Hopkins said.

Demolition crews will implement strict dust-control measures and noise limitations, Hopkins said. Trucks will be spaced at intervals to minimize their impact on traffic, and their tires will be washed before exiting the yard, he said.

“There will be no detonations, explosives or toppling of towers or support structures,” Hopkins said. “Instead, a slow and methodical, piece-by-piece removal will take place until the site is clear.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
General Iron Industries Inc, 1909 N. Clifton Ave., in Lincoln Park on Dec. 2, 2021.

Hopkins said the General Iron demolition will not repeat the mistakes from the botched 2020 implosion of a 400-foot smokestack at the former Crawford Power Plant, which sent out a giant dust cloud that enveloped the neighborhood at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hilco Redevelopment Partners was slapped with $68,000 in fines for the mishap and was forced to pay an additional $370,000 in a settlement with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

“Unlike the 2020 fiasco that occurred in Little Village … this operation will be conducted by a highly regarded, reputable demolition company,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins did not name the company, but he said it’s locally owned and operated “and thus very familiar with Chicago’s rules and regulations.”

“We do not anticipate any negative impact on the community,” Hopkins said.

Credit: Alejandro Reyes/YouTube
A drone video showed how the dust cloud spread from the Crawford demolition site and descended onto Little Village homes.

General Iron closed its Lincoln Park plant in January 2021 after years of complaints by neighbors who worried about the health risks of having a metal shredder in their community.

Their complaints ranged from worries about fluff, a substance that routinely coated the neighborhood’s sidewalks, roads, porches and playgrounds, to concerns about odors from the largely open-air operation.

Other problems with General Iron’s operation included a 2020 explosion that forced its temporary closure, followed later in the year by a scrap fire; a 2018 citation for excessive air emissions; a 2017 harassment lawsuit; a 2016 city-ordered shutdown and a 2015 fire.

These issues have subsided since the Lincoln Park plant closed, Hopkins previously said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
Fire crews were called to General Iron in 2020 after a “major explosion,” Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said.

General Iron’s parent company, Reserve Management Group, tried to relocate the plant’s metal-shredding operation to the East Side, but the city’s health department refused in February to grant the final permit needed for the move.

The city rejected plans for the Southeast Side operation after a city health impact assessment found the scrapper would have added to the neighborhood’s air pollution, negatively affected residents’ mental health, continued the city’s trend of concentrating heavy industry on the Southeast Side and risked bringing water and soil pollution, explosions, fires and noise to the area.

Reserve Management group spent $80 million in anticipation of the permit, which would have allowed it to open the Southside Recycling facility at its Burley Avenue campus, where the Ohio-based firm operates four other recycling facilities.

Southeast Siders had resisted plans for the facility since General Iron’s plans to leave Lincoln Park were finalized in 2019. They filed federal civil rights complaintssued city officials and held numerous rallies and protests. Several residents held a month-long hunger strike against the facility last year.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Community members, leaders and activists lay in the street in Logan Square to call on Mayor Lightfoot to deny the permit to move General Iron to the Southeast Side on the 30th day of the hunger strike on March 4, 2021.

A month after Reserve Management Group’s move to East Side was denied, the company tried reopening parts of the Lincoln Park plant by applying to renew its recycling facility permits for two parcels of land on the lot.

Rather than apply for a “large recycling facility” permit — which would have triggered the same review process parent company Reserve Management Group underwent for its failed Southside Recycling proposal — General Iron attempted to renew its old permits, which fell under a different category.

Each of the three sites would take in no more than 999 tons of scrap per day, company officials said on their applications. That’s one ton below the limit that would have forced the sites to comply with the more stringent rules.

City health officials rejected the company’s claim about its capacity, noting General Iron was previously allowed to accept “well more than 1,000 tons per day.” The renewals were also denied because previous zoning approvals for the sites had lapsed in the year since General Iron closed, and because the facility would shred cars and car parts, officials said.

“In any event, regardless of the total capacity … the site would be a large recycling facility, and the application must therefore comply with the [large recycling facility] rules,” environmental engineer Renante Marante wrote.

More information on the city’s Complex Demolitions process, which would apply to the General Iron demolition, can be found on the city’s website.

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