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McKinley Park

Damen Silos, Beloved By Urban Explorers, To Be Sold To MAT Asphalt Owner

Michael Tadin Jr. is planning a headquarters for his business at the site and anticipates “millions of dollars more” investment, but he declined to say what his specific plans are.

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 owner of MAT Asphalt is under contract to buy the Damen Silos, a collection of grain elevators abandoned after a 1977 explosion.

The state plans to enter into exclusive sales negotiations with MAT Limited Partnership — a group of businesses owned by South Side industrialist Michael Tadin Jr. — for the site at 2900 S. Damen Ave., according to a Wednesday news release from the state. The bid was one of four proposals the state received by Oct. 19, and MAT offered the highest purchase price for the property at $6.52 million — more than double the minimum bid, according to the state.

The site was made famous as backdrop in the 2014 film “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” 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 Stephenson Expressway.

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.

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

Tadin said the Damen Silos are an iconic piece of Chicago history.

“We are honored to play a role in transforming the property and generating economic activity that helps the community flourish,” Tadin said.

The state plans to close on the property by the end of December, officials said.

Tadin said 15 or 16 acres of the site is “buildable.” He plans to incorporate all of his businesses into one headquarters at the site and provide more jobs for people in the area.

“It’s a beautiful site,” Tadin said. “It’s got a beautiful view of Downtown.”

Tadin spokesperson Matt Baron said the zoning plans for the property have yet to be determined. Baron said Tadin anticipates “millions of dollars more” in investment of the property, though he declined to provide more information.

Manufacturing or production activities from Tadin’s companies are not expected to move to the site, he said.

Tadin said there are no renderings or drawings yet for the Damen Silos project. He said the first phase is environmental cleanup and demolition, and the project will go from there.

“It’s a work in progress,” Tadin said.

Tadin estimated the site will take at least one year to prepare and remediate, and more than a year to build out. He imagined moving in, in 2026 or 2027.

Tadin has previously generated controversy in the city: His MAT Asphalt plant in McKinley Park has been protested by neighbors who say it is polluting the area, which company representatives have denied.

In 2020, his family tried to block off public parkland using hedges to make it part of their own private yard in Lakeview. The hedges were ripped out.

The state has long tried to sell the Damen Silos site.

“The sale of the Damen Silos has eluded State government for nearly a decade, so we used a thoughtful and pragmatic approach to remove this surplus property from the State’s portfolio,” Anthony Pascente, acting director of Central Management Services, said in the Wednesday release. “The sale will generate economic opportunities, return the property to the real estate tax rolls, and save the State more than $325,000 of annual operating expenses.” 

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. The state had 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.

A prior purchase deal for the site fell through eight years ago due to cost concerns related to demolition, asbestos removal and building a sea wall.

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