PILSEN — A company hoping to open an enormous metal shredder in Pilsen will come before the city's Zoning Board of Appeals Friday as a neighborhood group that includes some students from nearby Benito Juarez High School has gone door to door to support it.
Friday’s hearing will decide whether Pure Metal Recycling — the company trying to build a $30 million metal shredder — will get the chance to bring the facility to a 15-acre lot along Loomis Street just south of Cermak Road.
The hearing has already been delayed multiple times due to repeated requests from Ald. Danny Solis (25th), who cited a general need for more community involvement and input as the reason for the delays.
Pure Metal President Mark Sweadlow said he expects to go through with Friday’s hearing.
“I feel like we’ve tried to educate people in terms of what our proposal is. Obviously we would not push forward if we were not positive and hopeful,” Sweadlow said Thursday.
Several Pilsen community groups have voiced complaints about the shredder, including neighborhood group Pilsen Alliance — which criticized Pure Metal’s lack of union jobs — and from the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, which has major concerns over the environmental risks posed to students at Juarez, which is several blocks from the proposed facility.
But a group of Juarez students said they think the shredder is a good idea. Several students who belong to Youth Health Service Corps — a teen group at Juarez that focuses on community health outreach — held a press conference Feb. 6 to support the shredder.
The Rev. Walter Coleman, who presides at Pilsen’s Lincoln United Methodist Church, started the youth group at Juarez three years ago. He said he doesn’t know whether the students went door to door collecting signatures with a larger group connected to the church or whether they went out on their own.
“They’re smart kids, they’re smarter than I am,” Coleman said. “We’ve been to the meetings and heard objections raised and answered and we found those answers satisfactory.”
Coleman pointed to the 75 initial jobs the shredder will create for the neighborhood. In addition, he said Pilsen’s other metal shredder, Sims Metal Management, is equally close to Juarez and uses outdated technology.
Sweadlow said while his company has met with Coleman, Pure Metal Recycling has not given any money to either Coleman’s church or to the Juarez youth health group and has not been instrumental in encouraging the students to campaign for the shredder.
Sweadlow also said he spoke with Juarez Principal Juan Ocon in December regarding internship and job training opportunities for Juarez students, as well as providing potential scholarship money at the school.
Sweadlow said he didn’t see a partnership between Pure Metal Recycling and Juarez as an inappropriate one.
“People are going to interpret things however they want,” Sweadlow said. “If we came in and didn’t reach out to our neighbor, which is the school, we would be looked at as the company ignoring the school.”
The zoning hearing on the shredder will take place at 2 p.m. Friday at City Hall.