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CHICAGO-Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. is closing its 94-year-old chewing gum factory in the McKinley Park community, transferring production to a newer plant in far west suburban Yorkville. Operations will be phased out over the next 18 months, according to the candy company, allowing time to explore redevelopment ideas for the 20,700-sf site in the 3500 block of S. Western Ave.

The move is a byproduct of Wrigley Co.’s $1.5-billion deal with Kraft Foods Global Inc., which gives the company the Altoids, Crème Savers, Life Savers and Sugus brand names. In addition to its corporate headquarters in its namesake building at 401 N. Michigan Ave., the company will continue operating its 300,000-sf global innovation center on Goose Island, which cost $84 million to build.

City officials supported that development in 2002 with up to $15 million in tax increment financing and backing a Cook County Class 6(b) property tax break worth an estimated $1 million a year in savings. Before landing the incentives, Wrigley Co. was exploring locations in Mokena and West Chicago as well as Yorkville.

The Western Avenue site is zoned M1-2, which could accommodate industrial redevelopment of about 40,000 sf. However, most of the surrounding properties are residential, primarily single-family homes and two-flats.

James McNaughton Builders pioneered the McKinley Park redevelopment effort with plans for 36 townhouses and single-family homes on a 2.3-acre site in the 1700 block of W. 38th Street. Nearby in New City, the vacant 522,324-sf Le Grou Cold Storage property in the 2000 and 2100 blocks of W. Pershing Road is being converted to 414 condominiums.

The Chicago factory relocation is one among several changes being made globally. Based on its recently completed global review, Wrigley also plans to discontinue operations at a newly acquired Kraft facility in Bridgend, Wales, and at its L.A. Dreyfus gum-base manufacturing center in Edison, NJ.

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