The Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development (HED) has designated an area of the 38th Ward as an industrial corridor, making zoning restrictions more favorable for the businesses in the section with the hope of drawing more economic activity in.
“I don’t know whether or not it will bring new manufacturing businesses to the area,” Cullerton said. “It might help, but I think it will do more to help keep those that we have and perhaps encourage some of them to expand rather than move out.”
Columbia Metal Spinning, Paasche Airbrush, and Chicago Paper Tube and Can are some of the major businesses in the area currently. Cullerton said he has not heard of any new businesses interested in joining the area yet.
The designation is set to go to Chicago’s Plan Commission Dec. 20 for approval.
There are 24 industrial corridors in the city, all which were designed to keep zoning favorable for business communities. Currently, 18 percent of the land in Chicago is zoned for industrial uses, according to the Department of Housing and Economic Development.
The 0.6 mile corridor comes as part of the Chicago Sustainable Industries initiative to promote industrial growth. Chicago received a $692,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to fund the plan, in partnership with the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center.
Businesses in an industrial corridor receive tax incentives for keeping their business in the community. These tax incentives are not available for businesses outside of industrial corridors.
“It’s the most comprehensive manufacturing policy that the city has ever entertained,” said Jim Cox, project manager for HED.
Resident and business owners at a Nov. 14 meeting held by HED introducing the corridor said they were happy with the plan, but they wanted to know why two areas east and west of the corridor strip were not included in the plans. Montrose Avenue and Forest Preserve Drive border the north end of the corridor, West Dakin Street is to the south, and east and west of it are Natchez and Normandy avenues.
“We’ve supported education and recreational use,” said Eli’s Cheesecake President Marc Schulman, whose company lies in the newly designated corridor. “There’s a need for education in the community. I think it’s an important addition to the Northwest Side.”
Eli’s Cheesecake employs 210 employees at the Northwest site. Schulman said he plans on staying in the area no matter what comes out of the newly designated corridor.
The land west of the corridor has to be used for public use. Even though it may not be an industry, Schulman said it should be something that complements the corridor. The land east of the corridor is leased to the Chicago Public Schools, which is currently vacant. If the land is not used for five years, the city will gain ownership of it again.
“I hope it will bring businesses in to the community,” said John Maher, who lives half a block away from Wright College, outside of the corridor. “It allows the businesses to expand.”
Since the designation, no new interest in the area has been shown by businesses, said Cullerton.
“Only time and the economy will tell if someone will move in there,” he said.