Amazon faces local opposition to warehouse in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park

Residents seek community benefits agreement for facility opens next year

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and an aerial of 1260 North Kostner Avenue (Getty, Google Maps)
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and an aerial of 1260 North Kostner Avenue (Getty, Google Maps)

Amazon faces opposition from residents of Chicago’s West Humboldt Park who worry that a planned distribution center will spark higher property taxes and rents.

The West Humboldt Park Community Coalition wants Amazon to agree to hire 60 percent of workers from nearby neighborhoods, a starting hourly wage of $28.50 and for the company to cover residential property taxes similar to a revenue-sharing program, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Construction permits have already been issued for the 140,000-square-foot campus at 1260 North Kostner Avenue in the small, densely populated neighborhood with industrial pockets. It’s scheduled to open in late 2022.

“We’re not here to say that we don’t want to have it here,” said Howard Ray Jr., a West Humboldt Park resident who organized the group. “We are here to say we want to be partners, and we want certain benefits. And if you can’t have those benefits, you don’t need it here.”

Reaching a deal could be an uphill climb because the Seattle-based company has been reluctant to agree to such terms. It pressured Seattle officials to repeal a head tax on large employers, which would have been used to fund the city’s homeless services, said Ben Bach, legal director at PowerSwitch Action.

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Amazon opened at least 10 distribution centers in Chicago this year, most recently in suburban Matteson and Markham, and is building warehouses in Gage Park and Huntley. It hired 15,000 employees in Illinois last year and said in September that it will take on 6,000 workers for fulfillment centers in the suburbs south of Chicago as it expands its distribution network in the area.

Amazon couldn’t be reached for comment, the Tribune reported.

Alderman Emma Mitts of the 37th ward didn’t comment on whether she would support the push for benefits.

“We are focused on expanding our major commercial business corridors, as well as building proactive public-private relationships within the 37th Ward,” Mitts said. “Amazon is making a major stake in Chicago, and I believe their entrance into the West Side of Chicago is a good thing.”

[Chicago Tribune] — Connie Kim