Developer cuts ribbon on start of industrial park that will bring 1,400 jobs to former Republic Steel mill

CHICAGO — Property developer NorthPoint cut the ribbon Monday on the first of five planned buildings at the $164 million Commerce Park Chicago industrial development at the site of the long-defunct Republic Steel mill on the city’s Southeast Side.

The project is expected to ultimately bring up to 1,400 jobs to the industrial park just across the state line in what’s being billed as “the largest industrial development built in Chicago in decades.” The property had sat idle since 2001 when the century-old steel mill was razed.

Suburban Kansas City-based NorthPoint, a business park developer and operator that has invested more than $7 billion worldwide since 2013, is building a new light manufacturing, assembly and logistics campus on 200 acres at the site of the bygone steel mill. It’s building out 2.3 million square feet of space next to its 155-acre supplier park for Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant.

The expanded industrial park will total nearly 4 million square feet, making it the largest in the city.

“Commerce Park Chicago is an economic engine and jobs generator that is a beacon of hope on the Southeast Side during a time when Chicagoans need good-paying jobs and opportunities as we battle the human and economic impacts of the global pandemic,” Chicago Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski Garza said. “The transformation of an abandoned relic to a state-of-the-art industrial hub signifies the beginning of a new era of employment on the Southeast Side that will continue to deliver benefits.”

NorthPoint just completed the first 360,000-square-foot building on a 32-acre site at 12144 S. Avenue O. Republic Steel, which also had a mill in East Chicago, long operated a steel mill there before it was acquired by LTV in 1984 and shuttered for good less than two decades later.

“NorthPoint believes in Chicago, the state of Illinois, its people and communities,” NorthPoint Founder and CEO Nathaniel Hagedorn said. “When we started this project, we saw the potential of the city and the Southeast Side. Commerce Park Chicago represents the best in public-private projects and shows the value of what we can accomplish by working together.”

Ford will lease the first building to support manufacturing operations at its nearby automotive factory on Torrence Avenue and East 130th Street, just south of the Calumet River. 

“Ford is proud of its nearly 100-year history of vehicle production in the city of Chicago,” said Tony Reinhart, regional director of community and government affairs at Ford. “Ford’s continued commitment to the city of Chicago is evident by our recent billion-dollar investment in our Chicagoland plants and the fact that we build some of our most iconic American vehicles, including the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator, here on the South Side.”

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