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11/24/2018 12:51:00 PM
Unifirst Corp. eyes up to $14 million investment with new Hammond facility

Lauren Cross, Times of Northwest Indiana

HAMMOND — Unifirst Corp. moved one step closer to buying land at 141st and Calumet Avenue and building anew to relocate its business operations after the City Council approved a zoning variance earlier this week.

Unifirst Corp., a dry cleaning and laundry service, has outgrown its current location at 4545 Calumet Ave., where it's operated since 2016 after the acquisition of Arrow Uniform.

The company wants to purchase five parcels and build a new 65,652-square-foot facility, doubling in size, according to the company's petition to permit light industrial use in land zoned C-4, or general commercial.  

Robert Brown, with RBA Architects, a consultant for Unifirst, said the purchase of properties was contingent upon passage of the zoning variance. 

Once constructed, Unifirst's central plant facility will host a fleet of 18 vehicles delivering cleaned uniforms throughout Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area. The property use excludes dry cleaning, or the use, handling, storage or processing of any dry cleaning materials, according to the permit. 

First District Councilman Mark Kalwinski said the central plant facility — a $12 million to 14 million investment — is a win for the city. 

Unifirst, which employs 95 workers, of which 60 percent live in Hammond, will increase employee count by about 10 percent, Kalwinski said. 

"This is a great project. A success story," Mayor Thomas McDermott said Tuesday.  

Not only is the company growing in size, Unifirst is purchasing and occupying land that's been vacant since before McDermott became mayor in 2004. The property was once home to an auto repair shop and gas station.

"This is a good addition to the First District," McDermott said. 

City staff recommended approval for the project under the condition Unifirst expands the ingress/egress of the 141st Street entrance, coordination with the state transportation department to expands Calumet Avenue's ingress/egress, and abide by requests from the city's Environmental Management Department.

According to the petition, the city's Environmental Management Department has asked Unifirst for spill prevention, containment and countermeasure protocols; procedures for handling shop towels potentially exposed to hazardous materials; and completion of a city air pollution permit application. 

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