MCKINLEY PARK — Ald. Julia Ramirez (12th) is pushing the city to delay permits to demolish the Damen Silos as neighbors keep pushing to save the site.
MAT Limited bought the silos and its 23.4-acre plot at 2900 S. Damen Ave. from the state late last year and is applying for five permits to demolish the buildings.
MAT Limited is co-owned by Michael Tadin Jr., his father, Michael Tadin Sr., and his sister. Michael Tadin Jr. is also co-owns MAT Asphalt in McKinley Park.
Ramirez said in a statement Wednesday she sent a letter to the city’s Department of Buildings asking the city’s permit review be delayed “until an agreement can be reached between [the] city, the current property owner, and community groups on future redevelopment plans for the site,” she said.
“I stand with my community and their efforts to preserve the historic Damen Grain silos and to repurpose them in a way that will not only honor the legacy of industry on the Southwest Side of Chicago, but also create equitable economic development opportunities with recreational green space along the riverfront,” Ramirez said.
It’s unclear how long the permit review process takes, or if the city is considering Ramirez’s request. A spokesperson for the Department of Buildings didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tadin said he’s had “productive conversations” with Ramirez and will take in community input regarding the future of the silos.
“I cannot control the pace of this process,” Tadin said in a statement to Block Club. “What we can control is ensuring that the demolition and every other aspect of work on the parcel is done in a first-class, respectful manner that complies with all regulations.”
Leaders from the Department of Buildings, Department of Public Health and Department of Planning and Development along with the demolition company contracted by MAT Limited presented plans this week on how the site would be demolished, should the permits be approved.
An overwhelming majority of residents who spoke up during the community meeting Tuesday night said they were against demolishing the silos.
Neighbors said they were skeptical on whether they could trust the city and the demolition crew to be transparent about how the project could impact the environment and public health.
Many people referenced what has become a flashpoint in the city’s fight for environmental justice: the botched Hilco implosion.
In 2020, officials mishandled the demolition of the old Crawford Smokestack in Little Village, sending a massive dust cloud of smoke over the Southwest Side neighborhood at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents and activists slammed the city’s lack of oversight and pointed to the demolition as another example of environmental racism in the city.
Buildings commissioner Matthew Beaudet said the silos and other buildings wouldn’t be taken down with explosives, but rather through a piece-by-piece process.
“This is not Hilco,” he said.
But many neighbors seemed unswayed.
MAT Limited bought the silos and its land from the state in November. A prominent neighborhood group protested the sale, and Southwest Side environmental advocates asked the state to reconsider.
Michael Tadin Jr. previously said he was thinking about building out headquarters for his businesses on the site. Matt Baron, a spokesperson for Tadin, said earlier this week that was still a possibility, but nothing has been finalized.
Michael Tadin Jr. has previously generated controversy in the city: His MAT Asphalt plant in McKinley Park has been at the center of protests by neighbors who say it is polluting the area, which company representatives have denied.
And in 2020, his family drew the attention of the city’s Inspector General after they used hedges to block off public parkland making it appear part of their own private yard. The hedges were later ripped out.
Ramirez said she wants the city and MAT Asphalt to find a consensus with neighbors on what could be built on the site.
“It is important that there be more community engagement and a real commitment by the city to consider alternative scenarios, and explore the possibility of expediting landmarking the site to help preserve the structure and create more public access to the site,” she said in her statement.
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