PERRO Releases Vision for Fisk Plant Site

By: Celia Martinez

 Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local NewsMembers of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO) and members of the Pilsen community gathered last Saturday evening at the Human Thread Gallery, 645 W. 18th St., to celebrate the community’s vision for the future of the site of the Fisk Coal-Fired Power Plant by unveiling their schematic design booklet.

The celebration for PERRO comes after years of hard work to either clean-up or close down the plant, which was the largest source of pollution in Pilsen. Plans to close down the plant were announced in February 2012 and the plant finally closed last month. But it was back in March when PERRO, along with other community organizations, began hosting community forums as a way to get the community involved and bring ideas for the future conversion of the site.

“PERRO’s always been very much a grassroots, democratic organization,” said Jerry Mead-Lucero, a spokesperson for PERRO. “We’ve always believed in getting maximum community feedback, so it was just natural for us when we had this opportunity to start talking about the future of the site to want to go out and engage with the community.”

PERRO’s schematic design booklet is the brainchild of PERRO and the Pilsen community members who attended the public forums and offered their ideas. Architecture for Humanity, a nonprofit design services firm, helped PERRO design the 84 page compilation that showcases detailed ideas, including maps and drawings, which ultimately offers Pilsen residents a window into the possibility of what the site can now become.

Mead-Lucero said that the top priorities that came from the six public forums that were hosted included creating publicly accessible land and green space, providing public access to the Chicago River and stressed the importance of creating non-polluting, sustainable, living wage jobs in the process.

“There should be industry and manufacturing there still that will provide living wage jobs, but there also needs to be green space,” said Mead-Lucero. However, the issue of environmental remediation still remains. Mead-Lucero said the former owner of the plant has not disclosed the amount of damage made to the land but they first need to ensure the land is safe before they can start rebuilding.

PERRO volunteer Stephanie Dunn said that a civil action lawsuit against the company would ultimately be the best solution in terms of getting the land cleaned. “Now that the previous owners are going to be vacating the property, whatever they put on the land, they are not responsible for legally, unless we have a civil action lawsuit against them,” said Dunn. “We don’t want to get people excited about an organic vegetable garden, a community center or a public park if it’s not going to get cleaned up first,” she added.

Nonetheless, the release of the booklet is a step forward for the Pilsen community and although Mead-Lucero said he doesn’t see much to change for at least another year, PERRO will continue hosting forums as a way to keep an open dialogue with the community. “Were going to keep having forums and were going keep having different ways of people giving us their input,” Mead-Lucero said.


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