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McKinley Park

Damen Silos, Spot Beloved By Urban Explorers, Put Up For Sale By State — Opening Bid Is $3.25 Million

The silos have been beloved by urban explorers for years, with so many people stopping by to take pictures or film videos that it felt like "a Chicago tourist destination," one said.

The Damen Silos, known for urban exploration, in the Lower West Side on Feb. 19, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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MCKINLEY PARK — The Damen Silos, a collection of grain elevators abandoned after a 1977 explosion, has been listed for sale.

Gov. JB Pritzker and the state’s Department of Central Management Services announced last week the state is inviting companies to make public bids on the site at 2900 S. Damen Ave. A pre-proposal conference meeting about bids for the silos is scheduled for Thursday, according to state officials and documents.

“The pre-bid conference allows potential bidders to receive information regarding the procurement, as well as ask questions,” Cathy Kwiatkowski, deputy director for the state’s central management services department, said in a Friday email. “Answers to questions will be attached [and] posted to [the state’s bid website] once finalized.”

The announcement of the state accepting bids for the site — which has more recently been a backdrop in the 2014 film “Transformers: Age of Extinction” — was first reported by the Tribune. It comes after a purchase deal for the site fell through eight years ago due to cost concerns related to demolition, asbestos removal and building a sea wall.

The silos have been beloved by urban explorers for years, with so many people stopping by to take pictures or film videos that it felt like “a Chicago tourist destination,” an explorer said in 2015.

The 15-story grain silos were built in 1906 by the Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad and they had capacity for 400,000 bushels of grain. Much of the interiors are covered in graffiti.

RELATED: Inside The Damen Silos: Urban Explorers Check Out Abandoned Structures

The state has owned the property since 1928, when it was deeded to the Illinois Department of Transportation. 

The property previously was used to mix construction materials for state roads. IDOT transferred the property to Central Management Services for disposal in 2005, according to state officials.

But the state has no use for the silos anymore, officials determined — hence the sale.

“I came into office with a promise to bring efficiency to government, saving countless taxpayer dollars that should be supporting our schools, bettering our roads, and shaping a stronger future,” Pritzker said in an Aug. 15 news release. “When complete, this sale will represent another step forward for that promise as well as bring significant economic development to Chicago’s Lower West Side.”

Per the State Property Control Act, the state set a minimum bid amount of $3.25 million to buy the property in “as-is” condition.

The 23.4-acre property includes two land parcels along the south branch of the Chicago River and sits near Interstate 55, known as the Stevenson Expressway. 

“We are moving forward today to give new life to this property and bring economic development to the area,” Anthony Pascente, acting director for Central Management Services, said in the news release. “The sale of this surplus property will generate significant economic opportunities in Chicago’s Lower West Side and McKinley Park communities while also saving the State the cost of annual operating expenses.”

Bid responses for the Damen Silos are due 3 p.m. Oct. 19. Vendors must register in BidBuy to provide a bid or offer to solicitations.

The proposed sale of the Damen Silos comes after the Pritzker administration announced in July the state is selling the Thompson Center. Google is buying the iconic Downtown building.

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