EPA announced the City of Chicago has been awarded $400,000 to assess contamination from hazardous substances and petroleum products on brownfield sites in the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods. This grant will be used to inventory sites, conduct six Phase I Environmental Site Assessments and Phase II Environmental Site Investigations, and prepare three cleanup plans.
A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.
More information about the Brownfields Grant program can be found on the EPA’s website. Specific information about the Chicago grant is available from the City of Chicago (312-744-3639).
Chicago has many abandoned structures from its industrial past waiting for redevelopment. These brownfield sites often sit vacant for many years before a developer finds an appropriate use for the site. The EPA defines a brownfield as “a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”
A drone video posted on YouTube explores two of Chicago’s better known brownfield sites: grain silos along the Chicago River (known as the ‘Damen silos’) and the Central Manufacturing District.
The State of Illinois has been marketing and attempting to sell the Damen silos for many years without success. These grain silos were used in various forms from the mid-1800s through 1977 when an explosion caused significant damage and rendered the remaining silos inoperable. Most recently, the property is known as a setting for films such as Transformers: Age of Extinction. In 2007, the State attempted to sell the property for $17 million. By 2014, the price had been reduced to $3.8 million. It still sits unsold and abandoned today.
In 2014, Landmarks Illinois named the Central Manufacturing District (CMD) as one of its top 10 endangered historic places. The district was founded in 1905 and was the first planned manufacturing district of its kind in the U.S. By 1915, more than 200 firms had moved into the CMD. As manufacturing has declined in Chicago, many of these buildings from a once-bustling industrial park are now abandoned. A 2012 fire destroyed the Pullman Couch Factory, and the Wrigley gum factory was torn down in 2014.