Chinese manufacturer building Hegewisch neighbourhood railcar assembly and testing plant

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CRRC Sifang America plant
Rendering of the new railcar assembly project for Chinese manufacturer CRRC Sifang America

Chinese railcar manufacturer CRRC Sifang America is investing $100 million to develop a 380,944 sq. ft. project in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighbourhood to manufacture Chicago Transit Authority cars.

Oak Brook-based CenterPoint Properties is developing the site at 13535 S. Torrence Ave. near Ford’s Chicago assembly plant, which includes 267,752 sq. ft. for assembly and and testing, and leaves room for future growth to serve the broader North American market.

The Chinese company had landed a contract to make the CTA’s new 7000 Series cars, which will be in operation on city tracks by 2019.

“CRRC Sifang America is grateful for the opportunity to work with the Chicago Transit Authority to produce the next generation of railcars in Chicago, for Chicago,” CRRC corporation vice-president Sun Yongcai said in a statement. “We are committed to producing top-of-the-line railcars to enhance CTA rider experience, while also creating new jobs at our assembly facility in the city. We are confident CRRC Sifang America’s partnerships in Chicago will make this project a success for us and for the city.”

The project is expected to create up to 200 construction jobs and will return rail car manufacturing to Chicago’s South Side, where the Pullman Car Company manufactured railroad cars. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other officials gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony on March 16.

railcar site
A Google Maps streetview image of the planned railcar assembly site

“It has been more than 30 years since the last rail car rolled off the Pullman assembly line on the South Side and over 50 years since CTA’s rail cars were produced in Chicago. Today’s groundbreaking represents a new beginning for Chicago manufacturing — one that will help attract much-needed business and development to this area,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said.

CRRC Sifang America has pledged to hire locally and is working with unions like the Chicago Federation of Labor and IBEW.

“For many years, we have watched U.S. manufacturing jobs move overseas,” Chicago Federation of Labor president Jorge Ramirez said in a statement. “The size of this bid provided Chicago an opportunity to leverage a robust manufacturing jobs program that will strengthen the middle class, stimulate increased investment in new domestic manufacturing facilities, and create opportunities for low-income communities.”

Chicago building permit information shows an $8,000 permit was issued for the groundbreaking tent at the site, but do not yet indicate any permits for the actual project construction.