LITTLE VILLAGE — After an explosion gone wrong covered Little Village in dust, the city is letting a developer clean up debris at the old coal plant site, but other work is still banned.
On Tuesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot authorized developer Hilco Redevelopment Partners and its contractor Heneghan Wrecking to clean up demolition debris after a smokestack at the site was toppled earlier this month. But the stop work order Lightfoot issued to halt other work at the site remains in effect as the city investigates the incident.
Lightfoot said the site is “dangerous” with debris scattered across the southern end of the property. Parts of the building are structurally unsound, she said, and the city wants to keep scavengers from breaking in to search for copper and other scrap metal.
Work to clean up the site will start later this week, she said.
“Out of abundance of caution — because of the public’s safety — we are allowing Hilco to take steps to clean up that site,” Lightfoot said.
On April 11, after receiving permits from the city, Hilco Redevelopment Partners and contractors MCM Management Corp and Controlled Demolition toppled the smokestack at the old coal plant site. Streets were covered in a cloud of dust following the explosion. Activists had begged the city to block the demolition beforehand, predicting poor air quality during a respiratory pandemic.
Lightfoot and Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) blamed the dust disaster on “dishonest” developer Hilco. Hilco is pointing the finger at MCM Management, Hilco’s now-fired contractor, and subcontractor Controlled Demolition Inc.
Lightfoot has said the contractor “utterly failed” to execute the dust mitigation plan.
In a statement, Hilco officials said they are cooperating with the city during its investigation of what went wrong.
Meanwhile, Little Village activists and residents are calling on the developer to abandon its $100 million plan to redevelop the site into a 1-million-square-foot distribution center.
But Lightfoot said there are “many others who were in strong support” of the project.
“No one thinks what happened a couple of Saturdays [ago] was appropriate, it wasn’t. It was an outrageous breach. It violated a number of different local ordinances, which they’ve been cited for,” Lightfoot said.
The city slapped Hilco with $68,000 in fines following the demolition disaster.
The city plans to announce a third-party environmental consultant who will examine the site in the coming days and will be paid by Hilco, Lightfoot said.
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.