Peoples Gas unveils facility plans
by KEVIN GROSS
Representatives from Peoples Gas unveiled plans for its new 2-story, 82,500-square foot North Shop Field Service Center at 4025 W. Peterson Ave., which would be built and occupied by the end of 2019.
Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) and utility company officials held a meeting to show plans to redevelop the former Wolters Kluwer Commerce Clearing House site demolished last year on Feb. 6, at the Chicago International Charter School Northtown Academy, 3900 W. Peterson Ave.
"It’s not a headquarters building, it’s not a bill pay center. It’s a depot for the employees to use to exercise their jobs," said Eric Fors, construction management consultant for Peoples Gas. "Company employees would check in at the beginning of their shift, talk to their supervisor, get their assignments for the day, and then collect their materials and equipment that they need to do their job, and then go out to the different points in the city that need work to be done. Upon completing the jobs they return their equipment and materials to the site and then leave to go home."
The new facility is expected to employ about 450 people. Developers are expected to break ground on the site in the fall, following submission of the plans to the Department of Planning and Development and finalization of designs. Construction expected to take 14 to 16 months, with construction work occurring primarily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"Many of our locations that you may be familiar with now are over 100 years old. We are outgrowing our spots, it is not conducive to today’s operations," Peoples Gas chief of staff Polly Eldringhoff said. "This site came up on our radar, and it’s a really appropriate site to serve all of our northern territory in the City of Chicago."
The structure will primarily bound Peterson Avenue and range from 20-feet-6-inches to 43-feet-6-inches in height, with an average height of 33 feet. Fors said that the alderman encouraged planners to design and align the structure in a manner to hide the yard where vehicles and materials would be stored or worked on.
"The building very, very completely screens the yard from view along Peterson, which was an intention to make sure we had most of our activity out of the public eye and the new building in the public eye," he said. "On Pulaski, there’s a significant amount of screening accomplished with a decorative fence and the landscaping. That’s intended to screen the employee parking areas from the public way."
The service center will have employee locker and fitness rooms, vehicle loading and fleet repair docks, a warehouse and shop space, and second-floor conference rooms and offices for employee coordination and dispatch.
Fors said they also plan to relocate the intersection of Thorndale and Pulaski further south, and to install a traffic signal at the intersection that will serve as the main entry point for employees.
Fors said that personnel are slated to work 24 hours from the site, although peak hours would involve approximately 300 employees arriving between 6 and 9 a.m. on work days and leaving between 3 to 4:30 p.m.
Nuns from the Felician Sisters Convent, 3800 W. Peterson Ave., expressed concern about peak traffic hours, which may coincide with student arrival and departure times at Northtown Academy.
Eldringhoff said that the company would study solutions with Laurino and school officials, perhaps by postponing primary shift departure or arrival schedules a half-hour after school dismissal or arrival.
Peterson-Pulaski Business and Industrial Council executive director Janita Tucker said that she was excited to see a large employer move in.
"We were very much involved in trying to keep CCH here as a local industrial retention organization, but we couldn’t be happier that this project is coming here," she said.
"We’re happy that Peoples Gas has taken this project on, and are planning on what appears to be the beginning of a very beautiful project," Laurino said.