MCKINLEY PARK – South Siders who opposed the state’s move to sell an abandoned collection of grain elevators are appealing to Governor JB Pritzker.
Representatives from several Chicago community groups released a letter on Monday addressed to Pritzker asking him to discontinue the sale of Damen Silos, 2900 S. Damen Ave., to MAT Limited Partnership, a group of companies owned by Michael Tadin Jr.
State officials announced the planned sale last month. MAT offered the highest purchase price for the property at $6.52 million, more than double the state’s minimum bid, according to the state.
Backers have urged Pritzker and state officials to gather feedback from neighbors before allowing the sale.
Signatories to the letter include Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Southwest Environmental Alliance, Neighbors for Environmental Justice, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), Bridgeport Alliance, McKinley Park Mutual Aid, McKinley Park Development Council, Friends of the Parks, Active Transportation Alliance, and 12th Ward aldermanic candidate Julia Ramirez.
“Simply put, the public land sale deserves public comment. We seek to ensure transparency in public land transactions and preserve as much riverside property as possible for the public benefit,” the letter states.
“We are disappointed that this sales process was conducted without any qualitative review of the plans for the site and without any input from the community. Failure to engage community stakeholders is a social and environmental justice issue for communities like ours, which face historic inequalities and will be directly impacted by the development of this site for generations to come.”
A state spokesman earlier said state officials are not considering factors other than price in the bidding process.
The process “allows no outside input,” Cathy Kwiatkowski, deputy director of the state’s central management services department, wrote in a Nov. 9 email.
Because current state policy does not allow for public involvement, it is in the public interest for the state to sell or transfer the Damen Silos to the City of Chicago, supporters said in the letter.
“The city can then work with the community to transform this site into a community asset that provides local residents with opportunities for recreation, education, active transportation and more, all designed in line with existing community development plans and protections.” of the riverfront,” they wrote. “Moving forward, each community should have a say in the sale and use of its public lands.”
The letter’s authors also urged the state to change its procedures and adopt a model such as the Chicago Department of Planning and Development’s proposal process request as part of its Invest South/West initiative.
“The city process includes neighborhood stakeholders from start to finish,” they wrote. “Builds community input into requirements definition and proposal vetting. It also requires public officials and aspiring developers to field real face-to-face and written public comments prior to the sale of public property.
In a statement, Tadin said any real estate development that occurs on the Damen Silos property will go through a planned public development process. The property is located in a planned manufacturing district which means any development will occur within those zoning requirements.
“Our investment will pour millions of dollars into the local economy and, with it, we will build on our long-standing history of serving as an important asset to the community,” Tadin said.
The site was made famous as a backdrop in the 2014 film ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’. The 23.4-acre property includes two parcels of land along the South Branch of the Chicago River and is located near Interstate 55, known as the Stevenson Expressway.
MAT Asphalt opened a plant in McKinley Park in 2018, surprising neighbors and city officials which they said they had no idea it was coming.
Over the years, environmental activists have claimed that the plant contributes to environmental pollution and racism in the area. Neighbors for Environmental Justice have organized guided tours of the neighborhood to help people learn about the environmental burden faced by their neighbors, and they did protested against the presence of MAT Asphalt.
MAT spokesmen have repeatedly denied that the plant is a major source of pollution.
Tadin has faced other controversies as well: In 2020, his family went for it block the public park using hedges to make it part of their private backyard at Lakeview. The hedges have been torn out.
Morgan Street Development, Tadin’s real estate firm, has invested more than $50 million in the riverside development of Riverbend Estates, which is located about a third of a mile east of the Damen Silos property, which has been vacant for nearly half a century, he said in a statement.
“We are grateful that our significant financial risk has helped transform the area from an antiquated industrial use into a beautiful residential and recreation area with modern rental townhouses and single-family homes,” Tadin said in the statement. “Those 100 or so units are attached to a park and boathouse that are part of Chicago’s overall beautification initiatives along the Chicago River.”
Tadin plans to tear down the silos and turn the area into a headquarters for his companies. Manufacturing and manufacturing businesses shouldn’t move there, he said.
The headquarters will meet and exceed “the regulatory requirements involved,” Tadin said in a November statement.
Tadin and the state intend to close the deal by the end of the year. Subsequently, the site would take at least a year to prepare and remediate, and then more than a year to build, Tadin said. He said they would be able to move around 2026 or 2027.
Tadin told Block Club Chicago that the state, city and all communities have an important role to play in being good stewards of the environment. That also includes private industry, he added.
“Across all my business endeavours, I am proud of our record in this regard,” Tadin wrote.
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