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City To Sell Goose Island Yard To Pay For New 311 System, Rahm Says

By  Heather Cherone and Ted Cox | February 28, 2017 2:53pm 

 As Chicago rolled out its new garbage collection fee in April, property owners braced for heftier utility bills.
As Chicago rolled out its new garbage collection fee in April, property owners braced for heftier utility bills.
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Flickr/Arvell Dorsey Jr.

ENGLEWOOD — The sale of the city's largest maintenance garage and yard — which will move to Englewood — will be used to fund much-needed improvements to the city's 311 system, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday.

Fleet and Facilities Management Commissioner David Reynolds said it would take between 18 months and three years to move the department's operations from Goose Island to the long-vacant former home of Kennedy King City College in Englewood near 69th Street and Wentworth Avenue.

The city's new 311 system will no longer be landline-based and allow police and other city employees to respond to calls for service "in real time," Emanuel said.

The yard along the Chicago River — nestled on the border of Lincoln Park and Wicker Park near the Kennedy Expressway — is too big and too expensive for the city's needs, Reynolds said.

Under the city's plan — first announced in August — 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 in Englewood. The new facility will be approximately $500,000 cheaper for the city to operate each year than the existing yard, officials said.

The city is also asking for proposals to build shops an stores on a 4.9 acre property across the street from the proposed new Engelwood facility, officials said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel framed the move as a way to "spur economic development" in the struggling South Side neighborhood by bringing 200 jobs, and fight crime that has spiked to levels not seen since the 1990s, which crack cocaine ravaged Chicago's neighborhoods.

In December, the 28-acre former Finkl Steel mill site was sold to developer Sterling Bay for approximately $100 million, according to reports.

While the city-owned site is smaller, it has more land along the river, making it attractive for both retail and residential development, Reynolds said.

The 1685 N. Throop St. complex includes 410,000 square feet of maintenance buildings for fire trucks, snow plows, police cars and other equipment, but was considered underused and expensive, with operating costs estimated at $1 million a year in 2015. The Englewood facility is expected to cost half that to run.

Previously considered a manufacturing zone, that area is being thrown open to a mix of industry and housing through the North Branch Industrial Corridor Modernization Plan, which has been hotly debated in community meetings.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), who's previously defended the need to retain manufacturing districts, expressed doubts Tuesday about whether the shift of Fleet Management to the South Side would actually cut operating costs. He also questioned the loss of manufacturing areas, saying, "If they decide to let residential into the whole area you can kiss most of the thriving [small businesses] and manufacturing businesses goodbye for no reason."

The Throop Street lot is being sold as is, according to the city, which purchased the property in 1990 after leasing it for two years. It was previously owned by Proctor & Gamble.

The bid process will be coordinated by Cushman & Wakefield. A bid due date has not been established, but an administration news release said that "bid proposals will be evaluated by the city based on price, developer experience, financial viability and alignment with city plans, among other criteria."

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) has said she will push to ensure that part of the North Branch Industrial Corridor is redeveloped into badly needed park land and sports fields.

In 2015, Emanuel proposed privatizing the city's 311 system in an effort to save $1 million but dropped it in the face of unyielding opposition from the City Council.

During the debate over the budget, Emanuel said the move was also designed to avoid paying about $30 million in technology upgrades the city's non-emergency call center needs.