Rezoning of 1838 N. Elston highlights need for city plan for industrial land

June 24, 2021

Last week, the Chicago Plan Commission approved the rezoning of the former Wagner Foundry site at 1838 N. Elston Avenue from heavy manufacturing to a residential business planned development.

North Branch Works opposed this zoning change because it would break up a block of properties zoned for manufacturing, which is incredibly valuable and supports equitable neighborhoods.

Our letter to the Chicago Plan Commission highlights these points and others.

Having available land for industrial use positions the city to recruit new companies that provide high-quality family-sustaining jobs without requiring advanced degrees.

1838 N. Elston is in the heart of our service area where many industrial businesses are thriving. These companies include SIPI Metals, Howe Corporation, O’Brien Metal, and Chicago Roof Deck and Garden.

The Elston Avenue Industrial Corridor has experienced great success because businesses could plan for and rely upon compatible surrounding land uses.

It’s easy to see this zoning change as one land parcel. But we’ve already seen an alarming trend of the reduction of industrial land along the North Branch. At the same time, the industrial real estate market is booming.

We want to see Chicago take advantage of this market by attracting new industrial companies and high-quality jobs to our area. And to see that growth we have to preserve the remaining land zoned for industrial use along the North Branch.

One of Chicago’s greatest strengths is a diversified economy that helps the city  thrive during good times and survive any major economic downturns.

Industrial companies play a major role in strengthening Chicago’s economy by carrying out essential work and employing people in head-of-household jobs. Continuing to reduce industrial land on the North Side will harm Chicago’s economy.

For these reasons, North Branch Works sees an urgent need to develop a citywide plan for preserving industrial land so that decision-makers like the Chicago Plan Commission can consider any proposed conversion of industrial land within the context of the city as a whole.

We call on the Chicago Plan Commission and Chicago Department of Planning and Development to lead this effort and stand ready to help them with research and on-the-ground knowledge of our service area.