UPDATE (06/17/2020): The City Council voted unanimously to give final approval to the Amazon distribution center plan on Wednesday.
CHICAGO (CBS) -- Plans for a 140,000-square foot Amazon distribution center in the Pullman neighborhood moved a step closer to reality on Monday, as a City Council committee signed off on allowing construction of the project as part of the Pullman Park campus along the Bishop Ford Freeway.
The Committee on Transportation and Public Way approved plans to allow the construction of the project on a nearly 40-acre parcel within Pullman Park, on a site bounded by 104th Street, Woodlawn Avenue, 106th Street, and the Metra Rock Island railroad tracks.
"This subdivision represents a major milestone. The parcel is the last undeveloped parcel in Pullman Park," said Maria DiGrino, an attorney for DLA Piper, which represents Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, which owns the land where the facility would be built.
Pullman Park – a 180-acre mixed-use development alongside the Bishop Ford, roughly between 103rd and 111th Streets – already is home to a Wal-Mart Supercenter, a Whole Foods distribution center, a Method Home Products soap manufacturer, and Gotham Greens urban farm.
"This is a continuation of the renaissance that is going on in the 9th Ward. You know, I have a saying that every time we get over a milestone, I say that it is a great day in the 9th Ward, and today is another one of those days that just happens to be great," Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) told the committee.
Beale, who has championed the project in his South Side ward, acknowledged Amazon has not finalized a deal to build the distribution center yet, but insisted it's only a matter of time and completing paperwork with the city.
"You have to have all the pieces in place before you actually sign the documents, but I'm 1000 percent confident that there is a commitment to making this happen," he said after the meeting.
Beale said Amazon's developer, Ryan Companies, already has cleared about 3,000 trees from the site to prepare for construction. The alderman said he expects the facility to be completed within the next six months, by Sept. 15.
"It will be open for the holiday season this fall. We are moving aggressively. That's how we get things done in the 9th Ward," Beale said.
The alderman has said the $60 million project would create up to 500 temporary construction jobs and about 200 permanent jobs once it is open.
While no aldermen voted against the project, the approval was not without some controversy, as Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) accused Mayor Lori Lightfoot's office of trying to "co-opt" Beale's project.
Beale said he filed paperwork to directly introduce the ordinance for the Amazon project directly to committee, but it later was changed to a mayoral introduction. Lopez called that maneuver "very unnerving."
"At the last minute, rather than focus on how to assist, this administration is focused on how to co-opt instead, and I think that kind of pettiness is uncalled for, because this is not about what he gets or what she gets, who gets to be this. This should be a partnership. The city wants partnerships not only with businesses, but with its leaders as well, even when they don't agree," Lopez told the committee. "A lot of us have worked hard, and continue to work hard, and want a partner. We don't need someone co-opting our ideas because they don't have any of their own."
While Beale endorsed Lightfoot for mayor last year, 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.
Beale said he could not explain why his direct introduction of the ordinance was changed to a mayoral introduction.
"You have to ask her that," he said.
The mayor's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The plan for the Amazon distribution center now goes to the full City Council for a vote next week.
Beale originally planned to also seek a property tax break for the project, but said Amazon has since decided not to seek any tax incentives.
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