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trucks pass by Target warehouse in Little Village

Trucks pass by the Target Flow Center T3865 at South Pulaski Road and West 35th Place in the Little Village neighborhood, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022.

Pat Nabong

Little Village residents worried about latest Hilco plan near Target warehouse

A plan to develop semi-trailer parking for a massive Target warehouse in Little Village has community members worried it will bring more diesel truck pollution into an area already suffering from poor air quality.

Hilco Redevelopment Partners is proposing to turn 20 acres at 3307 S. Lawndale Ave. into a parking and storage yard for trucks hauling loads to and from the retailer’s 1.3 million-square-foot warehouse.

Company officials and Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) say the parking area will alter truck routes and ease traffic around the area, which draws hundreds of large diesel-fuel vehicles daily to the Target site. Diesel fumes contribute to air pollution in the area.

But residents at a recent community meeting held virtually weren’t buying it, asking specific questions about the total number of trucks visiting the warehouse at 3501 S. Pulaski Road daily and whether Target has any plans to switch from diesel-engine vehicles to electric models.

Last week, Hilco Vice President Nicholas Pullara said the project won’t increase traffic along Pulaski or through residential streets, though when asked specific questions about overall truck traffic he said he’d have to confer with Target.

“We don’t trust or believe what Hilco says based on their track record,” José Acosta-Córdova, environmental and research organizer for Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, said in an interview.

The warehouse is so contentious that when Target held an opening celebration in July 2021, it did so indoors while Chicago police stood guard outside the gates of the facility. Dozens of community activists held a peaceful protest outside.

The warehouse has been a controversial issue in the community since developer Hilco proposed it in the final year of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration.

After 12 years of community pressure to close the Crawford coal-fired power plant, Emanuel helped make that happen in 2021. Community organizers were assured they would have a role in deciding what would replace Crawford but the Hilco warehouse development was not what community organizations such as the Environmental Justice Organization had in mind, since it replaced one polluting source with another, they said.

Even the demolition of the old Crawford site was botched when an almost 400-foot chimney came crashing down on Easter weekend 202O. The demolition created a huge cloud that covered neighbors’ homes, lawns and cars in dust. Hilco settled with the city and state over the debacle but it became a symbol of the long fight between the community and the developer.

The industrial area in Little Village attracts thousands of trucks a day and residents say many cut through residential streets on their way to the many businesses in the area.

Rodriguez said he couldn’t recall any specific complaints about trucks in and out of the Target site driving through residential streets and, overall, he gets fewer complaints.

“What I hear from neighbors is it’s significantly less,” he said.

Target officials, who declined to comment for this story, have said they instruct trucks to stay off of residential streets.

Another community meeting about the Hilco development will be held in early 2023, Rodriguez said.

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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