Ozinga’s underground warehouse proposal for 10th Ward still has legs

Alderman Peter Chico opened door for change to mining prohibition in 10th Ward

Ozinga’s Underground Warehouse Proposal Could be Revived
From left: Marty Ozinga and Alderman Peter Chico along with a rendering of The Invert Chicago (Getty, The Invert Chicago, LinkedIn, Facebook)

The Ozinga family is seeking Chicago City Council’s approval to revive an underground warehouse project on the Southeast Side.

Last year, a city zoning official deemed the project, dubbed the Invert, in violation of a Chicago law that placed a ban on mining operations. The Ozingas, known for their namesake concrete and material business, appeared to have no choice but to give up the site on South Buffalo Avenue, but the help of local officials could bring the project back from the dead, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Alderman Peter Chico, of the 10th Ward, filed an ordinance ahead of a City Council meeting this week, aiming for a zoning amendment to potentially grant an exemption for mining at the Invert. The project, which has been more than three years in the making, calls for 6 million square feet of commercial space for various purposes, including warehousing, light manufacturing and data centers.

Co-sponsoring Chico’s measure is Alderman Gilbert Villegas, who views the Invert as a significant economic development opportunity for the city, particularly in an area that has suffered job losses in the past. The proposed site, spanning 144 acres of former Republic Steel industrial land, has been a point of contention, especially among community activists.

The potential revival of the project has raised concerns among locals and environmental activists. The controversy surrounding the project centers on its extensive excavation. 

“I feel like we’ve been blindsided,” Olga Bautista, co-executive director of Southeast Environmental Task Force, told the outlet. “It’s disrespectful to move forward with no input from the community.”

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Chico’s measure is expected to be assigned to the Council’s zoning committee, and Alderman Maria Hadden also wants it considered in the Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy, which she chairs.

Hadden pointed out Chicago’s binding agreement over a federal civil rights case related to environmental permitting, stemming from another environmental controversy in the 10th Ward.

“How do we support economic development that does not set us back?” she said.

—Quinn Donoghue