CHICAGO — Neighbors in a McKinley Park environmental group are asking the state to slow down its sale of the Damen Silos to a controversial industrialist.
Neighbors for Environmental Justice — which has long clashed with the industrialist, Michael Tadin Jr., and his MAT Asphalt company — used a Twitter thread Monday to call on the state to suspend its plan to sell the silos to Tadin. They want the state to gather neighbors’ feedback before they continue.
The state announced Wednesday it plans to sell the silos at 2900 S. Damen Ave. to MAT Limited Partnership, a group of businesses owned by Tadin.
The site was made famous as a 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 the Stevenson Expressway.
“If the state wants to sell this property, the community must be at the table,” members of the group tweeted.
MAT offered the highest purchase price for the property at $6.52 million — more than double the state’s minimum bid, according to the state. But the McKinley Park group tweeted it is “unacceptable” the state is making plans for McKinley Park “that do not include its residents.”
A state spokesperson said the Illinois State Property Control Act does not consider anything but price in the bidding process. The process “does not allow for external input,” Cathy Kwiatkowski, deputy director for the state’s central management services department, wrote in an email Tuesday.
MAT Asphalt opened a plant in McKinley Park in 2018, surprising neighbors and city officials who said they had no idea it was coming.
Over the years, the environmental group’s members have said the plant contributes to pollution and environmental racism in the area. They have held tours of the neighborhood to help people learn about the environmental burden faced by neighbors, and they’ve protested MAT Asphalt’s presence.
“Now they want to do it again,” the group’s members tweeted Monday. “The state plans to sell the historic Damen Silos to Michael Tadin so he can showcase the profits he has made polluting our community. Again, there has been no process for community input, no interest in finding out what the people who live here want or need and no consideration of the risks.”
MAT’s spokespeople have repeatedly denied the plant is a major source of pollution.
Tadin has faced other controversies, too: 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 later ripped out.
Neighbors for Environmental Justice said the state selling MAT more property and claiming it as a win for the environment is “astonishing.”
“Since MAT Asphalt began operating, there have been hundreds of complaints — residents have reported foul choking odors in the park and in their homes,” the group members tweeted. “City inspectors have documented the smell of sulfur making it ‘very uncomfortable to inhale,’ emissions escaping from trucks, and blowing from the plant into adjoining streets and properties.”
Tadin has said the silos will be demolished and the area developed into a headquarters for his companies. Manufacturing and production activities are not expected to move there, he said.
The headquarters will meet and exceed “the regulatory requirements involved,” Tadin said in a Monday statement.
In the statement, Tadin said the partnership’s planned purchase of the silos is a major investment in the long-term future of the company’s businesses, McKinley Park, all of Chicago and the state of Illinois.
“We are proud to serve as an economic catalyst, such as attracting tenants like Nature’s Fynd to Marina Crossings,” Tadin said. “That enterprise alone is bringing over 200 new jobs to the community.”
But Neighbors for Environmental Justice said Tadin’s claim that the partnership will help his companies develop the infrastructure to support climate action is “absurd.”
“His business is renting out trucks and construction equipment and paving the roads they drive on,” the nonprofit tweeted. “He is literally in the business of carbon emissions.”
The environmental group tweeted the process would still be unacceptable to them regardless of who was trying to buy the property.
“We reject the premise that the state has no interest besides money,” the group’s members tweeted. “We reject the premise that plans to develop McKinley Park can be made by the city, the state or wealthy businessmen without involving the people who live here.”
Tadin and the state plan to close on the deal by the end of the year.
After that, the site would take at least one year to prepare and remediate, and then more than a year to build out, Tadin said. He imagined moving in, in 2026 or 2027.
Neighbors for Environmental Justice tweeted they believe “money was the sole consideration” for the state selling the silos.
“Michael Tadin was rich and interested and that was enough for JB Pritzker,” the group’s members tweeted.
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