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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Hilco Outlines Final Demolition Plans For Crawford Coal Plant Site, But Residents Want Developer Gone

Little Village residents and activists criticized the developer for its “aggressive timeline” and wondered why the project is continuing while coronavirus is still a concern.

Hilco and Heneghan Wrecking hosted a virtual community meeting Saturday to discuss the remaining demolition at the old Crawford site.
Heneghan Wrecking
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LITTLE VILLAGE — At a virtual meeting Saturday, Hilco officials outlined the rest of their plans to demolish the old Crawford Coal Plant site.

But after a botched demolition, Little Village residents don’t want to talk — they want the developer out.

It was the first time the developer spoke directly to residents since a botched explosion covered Little Village in dust April 11 — and the first community meeting hosted by the company since they pitched the project to residents in August 2018.

At the meeting on Zoom, Hilco Redevelopment Partners and demolition contractor Heneghan Wrecking said the remainder of demolition work is set to begin July 6. The project, called Exchange 55, will clear the way for a 1-million-square-foot logistics facility for Target.

Patrick Heneghan, president of Heneghan Wrecking, said the remaining work includes cleaning and “mechanically” demolishing a seven-story building, coal hoppers and a turbine building wall.

No explosives will be used. The company will use “large equipment with mechanical attachments that cut the structural support … [and takes] the building down in pieces,” Heneghan said.

Credit: Zoom Screenshot
Hilco and Heneghan Wrecking hosted a virtual community meeting to discuss the remaining demolition at the old Crawford site.

The demolition of the coal hoppers is planned for July, while the seven-story structure will be demolished in August. All demolition work is expected to be complete in September, Heneghan said.

In response, Little Village residents and activists blasted the developer for its “aggressive timeline.”

“It appears that Hilco has no interest in demonstrating to our community that it intends to be a good neighbor to residents who live in the shadows of the Exchange 55 projects,” one resident said.

Fanny Diego Alvarez, an organizer with El Foro Del Pueblo, said the meeting was “another task on a checklist that the city of Chicago needs to be able to say [it] was done.”

“Any demolition is dangerous. Exchange 55 tells us that Little Village health is not important to Hilco or the city. Rather, you all will make millions at the expense of our lives,” Alvarez wrote.

“Why are we talking about a demolition today if we, residents of Little Village and surrounding communities, have already said for years that we do not want this development?”

Credit: Zoom Screenshot
Hilco and Heneghan Wrecking host a virtual community meeting to discuss the remaining demolition at the old Crawford site.

In the wake of the botched implosion April 11, a chorus of neighbors and activists have called on the developer to abandon the site and for the city to rescind a $19.7 million tax break issued to the company.

Neighbors and activists have also fought against the 1-million-square-foot Target facility, which they say would inundate the neighborhood with more diesel pollution.

During the meeting, Gary Epstein, executive vice president at Hilco Global, told residents the company was turning the site into an “environmentally responsible, sustainable developments that will help create jobs and stimulate local economies.”

He said the company would plant 700 trees and hundreds of plants at the site.

Neighbors have previously said the company is greenwashing the project by ignoring the diesel pollution that the logistics facility would generate.

RELATED: Planned Explosion Covered Little Village In Dust During Respiratory Pandemic — Why Did The City Let It Happen?

Residents have also lashed out at Hilco and city for allowing demolition work in the middle of a respiratory pandemic, and in a community that’s been hard-hit by the coronavirus.

In May, the 60623 ZIP code — which includes Little Village and North Lawndale — had the highest number of coronavirus cases across the state. As of last week, 3,341 people living in the ZIP code have tested positive. There have been 129 deaths, according to city-data.

“It is infuriating to see this process happening during a pandemic, demonstrating Hilco has no interest in the community. It is about profit, profit over a community that is been hit the hardest by COVID-19,” a resident wrote during the meeting.

For the upcoming demolition, Heneghan said crews will “deploy [a] robust mitigation effort” approved by the city and daily reports will be generated to ensure “complete transparency of all ongoing mitigation efforts to comply with all regulatory authorities.”

As the work continues, Hilco officials promised to share updates on their website regarding the remaining work. The company has posted a live camera feed of the site.

Credit: Zoom Screenshot
Hilco and Heneghan Wrecking hosted a virtual community meeting to discuss the remaining demolition at the old Crawford site.

While most residents criticized the project, Virginia McGathey, who said she is a business owner in the area, wrote in the comments that the project is “a great opportunity for our community.” 

But residents like Yadira Montoya said the details of the demolition did not address “questions, concerns and outcry about the environmental racism [our] community has and will continue to face with the Exchange 55 project.”

“Our message from the beginning has been clear: We want Hilco out of Little Village,” Montoya wrote.

Read all of Block Club’s Crawford coverage here.

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