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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Following Botched Hilco Demolition, City Seeking Public Input On Rule Changes For Imploding Buildings

The changes were introduced two months after the implosion of the old Crawford Coal plant smokestack covered Little Village in a cloud of dust. The last day to provide feedback is Feb. 18.

A drone video showed how the dust cloud spread from the Crawford demolition site and descended onto Little Village homes.
Alejandro Reyes/YouTube
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LITTLE VILLAGE — Chicagoans can weigh in on proposed city requirements that will guide safe implosions following last year’s bungled demolition of a smokestack in Little Village that covered the neighborhood in dust.

City officials are seeking written feedback on proposed criteria for demolitions by implosions. Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office will host a virtual meeting to garner additional feedback 6 p.m. Jan. 28. Registration is required and speakers will have two minutes to share their comments, according to an email from the city.

The last day to provide feedback is Feb. 18.

Last spring, city officials approved permits for developer’s Hilco Redevelopment Partners to implode the smokestack at the old Crawford Coal Plant in Little Village. 

Activists urged the Mayor’s Office to stop the demolition amid the coronavirus pandemic. Neighbors received little to no notice before Hilco and its contractors imploded the smokestack, which blanketed homes and streets in dust and debris.

In November, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul settled a lawsuit with Hilco agreeing to pay $370,000 to ACCESS’ Little Village Community Health and Wellness Program.

The city fined the developer $68,000 following the implosion.

Following the disaster, Lightfoot promised to overhaul the implosion requirements. Those changes were introduced two months after the implosion in June. 

Under the changes, the city would require developers to provide written notices, posted notifications and public hearings before implosions. 

Developers who want to implode a building would need to notify residents and property owners within 1,000 feet of the demolition site.

The ordinance would also require a 4-by 8-foot sign with at least 6-inch letters at the site describing the “intended use of explosives, the date, time.”

Applicants must also host a public meeting within 2 miles of the implosion site, and attendees would have at least two hours to ask questions. The meetings are to be held 30-60 days before a scheduled implosion, according to the rules.

The ordinance would also require companies seeking a demolition permit to include a project timeline and plans for security, transportation, hazardous materials, dust mitigation, air quality monitoring and emergency response. The departments of Buildings and Business Affairs and Consumer Protection would review these materials.

In addition, the Fire Department, Department of Public Health, Department of Transportation, Department of Water Management and Office of Emergency Management and Communications will need to sign off on an applicant’s plan.

The Crawford Coal Plant closed in 2012. Hilco plans to build a 1-million-square-foot warehouse for Target in its place at the 70-acre site, 3501 S. Pulaski Road.

Read proposed changes to department rules here.

Read all of Block Club’s coverage of the former Crawford Coal plant and its impact on the community here.

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