The botched demolition of a former coal plant in Little Village last year, which coated six blocks of homes in a plume of dust, has made way for a new Target warehouse that opened last week on the site owned by Hilco.
The new supply chain facility, which is expected to support more than 80 Chicago-area stores, has sparked protests among some residents who say they don’t want it in their community.
Edith Tovar, a community organizer with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, said the facility is an ongoing concern for some.
“This warehouse facility is a continuation of a toxic legacy that the former Crawford coal plant has left behind,” Tovar said. “We are still seeing the effects of the coal plant that took 12 years to shut down. We are seeing the continuation from coal to diesel pollution.”
Tovar says her organization has been doing “truck counting” and is seeing two diesel trucks per minute at the intersection of 31st Street and Pulaski Road.
“We need to be thinking about a Green New Deal in our country,” said Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd Ward). “This facility was approved prior to me coming here. I’m dealing with the reality … we need to figure out how to keep them accountable to our community.”
The facility employs nearly 400 people and is expected to provide up to 2,000 jobs, with a starting wage of $18 per hour, according to the corporation.
“We want to make sure as many of those jobs go to our residents in the Southwest Side of Chicago as possible,” Rodriguez said.
Despite their concerns, Tovar says the community wants to support and empower workers.
“We’re not here to deny or look down on these types of jobs,” Tovar said. “We want to also be advocating for these workers. We want them to know their workers rights. We want them to know that Chicago is a union town.”
Rodriguez said it was “no small task” to get the agreement that Target trucks would not come into the neighborhood.
“I think it’s easy to go to war,” Rodriguez said. “I prefer to talk and negotiate. It’s inevitable that Target will be here. They have what they need to come here. We need to make sure people are educated, that we have folks from the neighborhood hired.”
Target will host virtual and in-person hiring events including upcoming sessions in partnership with Central States SER from 1-4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5, and Instituto del Progreso Latino from 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, Aug. 7.
Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly described the size of the new supply chain facility, which is expected to support more than 80 Chicago-area stores. The story has been updated.