‘This undermines our right to clean air’

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

By: Ashmar Mandou

Northbrook-based Hilco Redevelopment Partners has bought the former Crawford Power Generating Station, located in Little Village, as part of a $100 million project to demolish the facility and replace it with up to 1 million square feet of warehouses along Interstate 55. The Crawford Power Station was one of the last two coal plants in operation in Chicago until 2012, when Midwest Generation closed the facility and its Fisk generating station in Pilsen. According to President and Managing Director of Hilco Redevelopment Partners Roberto Perez the project includes demolition of the power plant and other buildings, environmental remediation and construction of one or two warehouses with as much as 1 million square feet of space. “When we closed down Chicago’s last two coal plants, we committed to creating a cleaner, brighter and more sustainable future for Chicago’s neighborhoods,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a news release. “I look forward to working with Hilco Redevelopment Partners to turn this site from a vestige of Chicago’s past to a vibrant part of our shared future.”

Hilco is working on a community benefits agreement with 22nd Ward Ald. Ricardo Munoz on the Crawford redevelopment. “No. 1, I want to see it cleaned up properly, and No. 2, I want to see jobs go to local residents,” Munoz said. “It’s great that they’re going to repurpose the site, put it back on the tax rolls and bring jobs back to the site.” However, members in Little Village, including the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) is demanding an immediate meeting with Hilco and Mayor Emanuel for not including the organization in discussions. “We are disappointed that Alderman Ricardo Muñoz and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have already publicly proposed a plan and are pushing it forward without the involvement of our community as stipulated in the original Guiding Principles for site redevelopment agreed to with former coal plant owner, Midwest Generation. This top-down decision to plan for a diesel-intensive logistics center or distribution facility threatens to undermine the life-saving improvement in air quality won by the shut-down of the Crawford coal plant. Indeed, our community came together to close down Crawford and fight for the right to breathe precisely because we lost 40 community members prematurely every year, had over 2,800 asthma attacks and over 550 emergency room visits annually due to the pollution that the Crawford coal power plant released,” said LVEJO in a statement to press.

LVEJO asserts that the siting of a diesel intensive logistics center or distribution facility at the former Crawford coal plant is a violation of the longstanding struggle for environmental justice in Little Village. “It is crucial that our community understand the conditions of the building to see if demolition is needed or if the building and broader site can be repurposed for community priorities. This must be paired with a comprehensive analysis that ensures that our community’s health and environment is centered in the redevelopment. Ultimately, the use of the Crawford coal plant site must be directed by the needs and vision of the Little Village community whose future is at stake,” released LVEJO. Site cleanup and demolition is expected to take 14 to 24 months. Hilco will talk with prospective tenants during that time.

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