North Lawndale neighbors fight plan to demolish historic buildings, add truck traffic

This and other North Lawndale historic buildings on Ogden just south of Pulaski will be torn down under a plan being considered by the city.

Brian Ernst / Sun-Times

North Lawndale residents are pushing back on a plan to demolish a dozen historic manufacturing buildings and replace them with a logistics operation they fear will send large diesel trucks rumbling through their streets, shaking their homes and polluting the air.

Real estate developer IDI Logistics owns and plans to rebuild on more than 15 acres along West Ogden between Pulaski and Keeler in the Lawndale Triangle neighborhood.

The Chicago Plan Commission is scheduled to consider the IDI proposal at a City Hall meeting Thursday morning. Residents hope the commission will halt the proposal.

“If nobody stands up, we can continue to be railroaded and run over,” said resident Norvetta Landon.

Some of the buildings are historically significant dating back more than a century, preservationists say, but IDI plans to tear them all down and replace them with an almost 250,000 square foot structure.

Residents in the majority-Black West Side community are concerned about the teardown impact on their neighborhood, and the city itself deems the plan an “environmentally complex demolition” because of its size and proximity to homes.

Beyond the destruction of the historic buildings, North Lawndale neighbors fear the project is going to bring in dozens if not hundreds of large trucks daily, raising concerns about the impact on area homes and health.

Residents say communication about the project from the city and the developer has been poor.

“The process of this whole thing just feels like we were thrown away. That’s how we feel,” said Rochelle Jackson, a lifelong North Lawndale resident who learned about the project just three weeks ago. “Here come the developers. Everything is done before the community is told anything.”

Jackson was joined at a small community meeting Monday night by other residents who questioned why the project was good for the area.

“The only people who truly benefit from this are sitting up there,” lifelong resident Paul Norrington said, referring to representatives of IDI and the wrecking company American Demolition who fronted the audience at Greater St. Paul AME Church.

Landon filed a lawsuit last month in Cook County Circuit Court seeking to stop the demolition. She has no lawyer but said she hopes an environmental or preservation advocacy organization will join her suit.

Landon is concerned about the lead and asbestos removals for the dozen buildings as well as the safety safeguards in place around the area. Already, she’s noticed broken glass from the buildings landing near the sidewalk where children pass, a problem that would’ve been fixed with simple preventative measures, she said.

She’s also concerned about the presence of trucks and the impact on the health and safety of residents.

Landon said she hopes Mayor Brandon Johnson would agree to meet with residents about their concern over the plans, though she has not yet requested a meeting.

IDI has not said who or what will operate out of the building, though it calls the project a logistics development — an operation that often includes considerable truck traffic. A company representative said there is no plan to keep the existing buildings.

Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) said he will not support the project if it includes a sizable trucking distribution facility.

Instead, he said he prefers manufacturing that creates “higher-paid career-oriented jobs, more unionization and less trucking for a community already dealing with an overburdened trucking environment.”

Large logistics operations on the Southwest Side have brought thousands of trucks that contribute to poor air quality, chronic respiratory issues and a nuisance to neighbors who say they see drivers often cut through residential streets.

Big trucks can cause older homes to vibrate and may cause damage to residential streets in North Lawndale, Jackson said.

Residents and other opponents of the IDI project also noted that the old factory buildings on Ogden recently housed small businesses. Preservationists said the buildings could be redeveloped to house small business incubators.

“We want to grow this city in a very healthy way,” said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago. “Our mission is rebuilding some of these communities that have suffered from severe disinvestment.”

The most significant buildings threatened but worthy of historic preservation are the Western Felt Works building on Ogden and two others that once housed Turner Manufacturing, a maker of wall decorations, on Ogden and Keeler, Miller said.

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *