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Redeveloping The River: 18 Riverfront Acres To Open Up In Changing Area

By Mina Bloom | August 30, 2016 5:18am
 Fleet and Facility Management's current 18-acre site near Goose Island.
Fleet and Facility Management's current 18-acre site near Goose Island.
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GOOSE ISLAND — The city's largest maintenance garage is bidding farewell to its massive riverfront property near Goose Island — a move cheered by Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who sees it as a step toward a larger initiative to modernize the North Branch Industrial Corridor.

"It fits the theme of the changing nature of Planned Manufacturing Districts," said Hopkins, whose ward includes Fleet and Facility Management's garage and headquarters, 1685 N. Throop St.

The announcement that the city-owned garage, where city vehicles are fixed and stored, is moving to Englewood comes as city officials and Hopkins push to modernize the long-standing industrial corridor bounded by the Kennedy Expy. and the river. They want to open the area up to more uses beyond the industrial like residential, retail and offices.

Mina Bloom talks about this development's effect on two Chicago neighborhoods.

The Fleet and Facility Management property has become the area's second biggest redevelopment opportunity behind the 28-acre former Finkl Steel mill site.

"I think the city is looking to lead by example," Hopkins said. "We're suggesting to many of the other legacy industrial businesses that it would be better for them to relocate to a more appropriate area to allow us to redevelop the area."

Under the city's plan, the 18-acre riverfront property will be sold to a developer, who will also be required to build Fleet and Facility Management's new facility at the old Kennedy-King College site in Englewood.

In a news release, the city framed the move as a way to "spur economic development" in the struggling South Side neighborhood by bringing 200 jobs.

Hopkins called the move a "win-win situation for both communities."

He said the move will help alleviate congestion on North Avenue, which sees "hundreds" of Fleet and Facility Management trucks on a daily basis.

Fleet and Facility Management has been operating at North Avenue and Throop Street since the early 1990s, according to Hopkins. 

The garage is moving because the current site is underutilized and expensive to operate. In 2015, it cost the city more than $1 million to heat and cool, according to the Tribune.

“Moving operations from the North and Throop facility will not only save the City significant operational costs, it will allow us to relocate to a new location that will be custom built to meet the needs of our operations,” David Reynolds, Commissioner of Fleet and Facility Management, said in a prepared statement.

So far, Hopkins said his office hasn't received any specific plans for the massive North Side site, but he anticipates that the proposals will flood in. 

The freshman alderman wants to make sure that whatever's built fits within the broader context of the neighborhood.

"This shouldn't be a one-off, a big-box retailer," he said. "Ideally, this would fit into a master plan for redevelopment of an area that has been limited in recent years."

The city is requiring any private development to include public access to the river and a setback along the waterfront.

Hopkins is planning to host community meetings once developers start pitching proposals.

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