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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

After Dust Disaster, Hilco Will Restart Demolition At Little Village Site Next Week

Mayor Lori Lightfoot indefinitely stopped work at the site after an April 11 implosion covered Little Village homes in a cloud of dust.

Hilco Redevelopment Partners is demolishing the old Crawford Coal Plant in Little Village.
Zoom/City of Chicago
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LITTLE VILLAGE — Despite concerns from neighbors after the Little Village dust disaster, developer Hilco Redevelopment Partners will restart demolition at the old Crawford coal plant next week.

A “mechanical demolition” of a turbine building at the site will begin at 6:30 a.m. Friday, June 5, Hilco officials said in a letter to residents. The building is dangerous and needs to come down, city officials have said.

“All activities, performed by Heneghan Wrecking & Excavation Co., Inc., will be conducted in accordance with its dust mitigation plans which have been approved by the City of Chicago Department of Public Health and the City of Chicago Department of Buildings,” company officials wrote.

“We are taking great care to inform the residents of the community of this demolition, and so in addition to this notice you may be notified by telephone,” officials said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot indefinitely stopped work at the site after an April 11 implosion covered Little Village homes in a cloud of dust and debris. On Saturday afternoon, city officials said the new demolition work to dismantle the turbine is expected to take two days.

The city’s Department of Public Health and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency have conducted a thorough review of contractor Heneghan Wrecking’s dust mitigation plan, Department of Buildings spokesperson Mimi Simon said. Water operations to mitigate dust are part of the plan, she said.

“City inspectors have also been onsite since April 13 and will remain onsite with a third-party environmental consultant to closely monitor the demolition activity and ensure the promised safeguards are in place and followed, Simon said. “Chicago Department of Buildings’ Managing Deputy Marlene Hopkins will be on site with direct access to the Fire Department should there be an emergency.”

Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) said the city made a compelling case for “why the spontaneous collapse of the turbine building could potentially be disastrous.”

“The building probably isn’t safe and needs to come down, but I share my neighbors anxiety around this project. Hilco has not earned our trust and they don’t inspire our confidence,” Rodriguez said. 

The April 11 implosion happened after the city permitted the work amid a respiratory pandemic and with little notice to neighbors. A day earlier, activists begged city officials to stop the demolition but it went on anyway.

Earlier this month , despite the stop-work order, neighbors were blindsided when the city gave a contractor permission to demolish the turbine at the plant. There was no notice to neighbors. Faced with protests, Lightfoot later halted the demolition work again.

Days later, the city quietly issued a $40 million building permit for the site’s redevelopment. Some neighbors were mad again, noting Hilco Redevelopment Partners would eventually need a building permit to continue the redevelopment.

During a virtual community meeting on Saturday, Department of Buildings Commissioner Judith Frydland said the building was a danger to the public’s safety and needed to come down.

The demolition would be a “mechanical demolition” with bricks removed a few pieces at a time. “No explosives” or wrecking ball would be used, Frydland said.

RELATED: Little Village Neighbors Push Back On City’s Plan To Allow More Demolition At Hilco Site: ‘There Is No Trust Here’

During the meeting, residents and neighborhood groups slammed city officials for the limited Spanish translation. Residents called on the city to hold another meeting to ensure the majority Latino community could be property informed about next steps.

Spanish subtitles were available to residents watching the livestream from Zoom or Facebook, Simon said. Manuel Perez, a Lightfoot staffer, also provided translation during the meeting, she said.

Other neighbors echoed the growing refrain among activists, calling on Hilco to abandon their plan to redevelop the site.

RELATED: Chicago’s Latino Neighborhoods Have Most Coronavirus Cases In The State. Is The City Doing Enough To Respond?

Edith Tovar, an organizer with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, called on the city to provide the neighbors with an emergency plan for how to protect themselves when demolition resumes.

The Crawford Coal Plant closed in 2012. Hilco plans to build a one-million-square-foot warehouse for Target in its place at the 70-acre site, 3501 S. Pulaski Road.

In the wake of the April 11 implosion gone wrong, activists have called on Hilco to abandon their plans for the Crawford site.

Read all of Block Club’s Crawford coverage here.

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