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Amazon Opens New Delivery Center In Pullman, Bringing Adversaries Lightfoot And Beale Together For At Least One Day

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Far South Side Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), often at odds on most issues, were all smiles on Wednesday as they celebrated the opening of a new Amazon distribution center in the Pullman neighborhood.

"There was one time when people thought about Pullman, they thought about the past, and now the script has completely been flipped. When folks talk about Pullman, it's about progress, and the promise of this community," Lightfoot said as she joined Beale to hail the opening of the 140,000-square-foot warehouse, Amazon's first delivery station in the city.

The alderman has said the $60 million project created approximately 500 temporary construction jobs and will provide about 200 permanent jobs now that it's open.

The warehouse was built entirely with private money, and received no tax incentives from the city or state.

Beale and Lightfoot both touted the new facility as evidence of an economic resurgence in the Pullman and Roseland neighborhoods in recent years.

"I can't tell you how happy I am today to be born and raised in this community, to have lived here for 53 years," Beale said. "I lived through the downturns, and to be at the forefront of the upturn, there's no greater feeling."

The delivery center was built on the last undeveloped parcel of Pullman Park, a 180-acre mixed-use development alongside the Bishop Ford, roughly between 103rd and 111th Streets.

That site has become a booming engine for development in the area, starting with a Walmart Supercenter in 2012. Pullman Park is now home not only to Walmart and the Amazon warehouse, but a Whole Foods distribution center, a Ross department store, a Food4Less grocery store, a Method Home Products soap factory, and Gotham Greens urban farm, which boasts the two largest greenhouses in the U.S.

"Walmart was the first anchor that really broke the ice for all the development that you see today," Beale said. "What we have done here in the Roseland-Pullman community should be copied throughout the county. What we've been able to accomplish is really second to none in an urban community."

Amazon senior regional manager said the warehouse, completed in less than eight months, is one of the first facilities Amazon has built during the pandemic.

Amazon now has more than 20 delivery stations in Illinois, including several in the Chicago suburbs.

Lightfoot said she hopes it's just the first of many investments Amazon will make in Chicago.

The mayor has repeatedly drawn comparisons to the city's recovery from the Great Chicago Fire when discussing how she expects the city to bounce back from the pandemic. On Wednesday, she called it "a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a new city" and make Chicago better and stronger than it was before, despite the challenges it is facing.

"We will not work our way out of poverty until we keep focusing on economic development, and making sure that our young people in particular understand that there's opportunity at our fingertips," she said. "We are one city with one future, and the story of that future, that promise, is being written right here in Pullman."

Asked if her appearance with Beale at the Amazon warehouse signaled a détente between two elected officials who have been adversaries since she took office last year, Lightfoot laughed.

"I'm going anywhere there's economic development. I'm going anywhere where we're creating jobs and opportunities for the residents of our city. That's a good thing, a positive thing," she said. "It doesn't happen without everybody working together, including making sure that the mayor's office is aligned with the vision on economic development."

While Beale endorsed Lightfoot when she ran for mayor in 2019, he has since become one of her most vocal critics after she chose Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) over him for chairman of the City Council Finance Committee.

Last year, Beale called Lightfoot's budget plan for 2020 nothing more than "smoke and mirrors," and earlier this year he voted against a measure granting the mayor wide emergency spending authority during the first few months of the pandemic. He also criticized the mayor's response to widespread looting in late May and early June in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, saying the Pullman neighborhood was hit especially hard, and he blamed Lightfoot.

For one day, at least, the two put aside their differences to celebrate the new jobs coming to Pullman.

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