By Nicholas Zettel and Jessica Kursman
Scrap metal shredder General Iron has announced they are are moving from their current Lincoln Park site to a proposed site bordering the South Deering and Hegewisch community areas in 2020. The move would disproportionately impact Latinos, single female mothers, children under 18, elderly individuals over 65, and low-income residents.
The move coincides with developer Sterling Bay’s proposed Lincoln Yards project, which is transforming the near-north side’s Planned Manufacturing District from its historic industrial landscape into a mix of residential, commercial, and entertainment uses.
In a recent Chicago Tribune article, General Iron’s crisis communications specialist, Randall Samborn, cited the smaller population surrounding the proposed site to suggest that General Iron will be farther from residents. According to the Samborn, about 6,800 people live within a mile of the Southeast Side site, compared with about 47,500 who live that close to the scrap shredder’s current operation west of Clybourn Avenue between North Avenue and Cortland Street.”
While it is true that residential uses surrounding the proposed Lake Calumet site are less dense than those in Lincoln Park, this narrative overlooks the differences in the populations of the proposed Southeast site and the current Lincoln Park location. When compared with the existing Lincoln Park site, residents living within one mile from the proposed site are more likely to be identified as Latino; under the age of 18; older than age 65; and a female-headed householder with children present.
Latino and Low-Income Residents Disproportionately Impacted
Residents identified as Latino will be more impacted by the proposed General Iron site than any other demographic group. Within a one mile radius of the proposed General Iron site, more than 67 percent of the population is identified as Hispanic or Latino, compared to approximately 10 percent of the population within a mile radius of the existing Lincoln Park site*.
The proposed General Iron site is also within a neighborhood with notably lower incomes than the current site. The Lincoln Park site household income is $69,000 –more than three times that near the proposed Southeast side site ($20,000).
Female Headed Households and Youth Disproportionately Impacted
Additionally, female residents and young residents are disproportionately represented near the proposed site. Specifically, within a one mile radius of the existing General Iron site, slightly more than 15% of residents are younger than age-18, while nearly 27% of residents within one mile of the Lake Calumet site are younger than 18 years old.
Furthermore, single-female households will be disproportionately affected by the move. An estimated 30 percent of Southeast side households within a mile radius of the proposed General Iron site are female-headed households with people under age-18 present. In contrast, approximately 5 percent of households surrounding the Lincoln Park site are headed by single women.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, Five-Year Estimates, 2012-2016; ESRI ArcGIS 10.5.1.
Land Use and Vulnerable Populations in the Calumet Region
The proposed move offers an opportunity to consider specific population needs of young and elderly residents, residents living in poverty, and single-parent households. Furthermore, the move illuminates a greater conversation of environmental and racial equity as it pertains to land use and zoning in the Calumet Region.
*U.S. Census American Community Survey 2012-2016 estimates