The chorus of opposition to the state of Illinois’ sale of the vacant Damen Silos property in Chicago is growing louder.
Eight organizations, led by Friends of the Chicago River and Openlands, signed onto a letter dated Nov. 15 urging Gov. J.B. Pritzker to halt the sale of the site to MAT Limited Partnership.
“The governor should put this project on hold and open a meaningful discussion with the community about the future of the Damen Silos site for the betterment of public health and the ecological transformation of the Chicago River system,” said Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River.
“Any riverfront improvement opportunity should be part of a master plan that recognizes the Chicago River system as the wondrous natural resource it is rather than the uncared for alleyway it used to be,” Frisbie added. “Bold leadership and creative thinking in concert with community aspirations will achieve something we can all be proud of for generations.”
The 23-acre property, home to abandoned grain elevators that have become popular with urban explorers, is strategically situated on a stretch of the river slated for restoration or improvement projects, including a pending multimillion-dollar revitalization of nearby Bubbly Creek, a famously polluted fork of the South Branch.
“The potential of the Damen Silos site to further this transformation on the South Branch is unmatched,” and the state has a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to imaginatively rethink” the future of the property, the coalition’s letter states.
Riverfront recreational access and public investment in park space are among the desired enhancements to riverfront property in the area surrounding the Damen Silos, the letter continues. Neighborhoods along the South Branch — including McKinley Park, Pilsen and Bridgeport — lack adequate park space and have been identified as high priority areas for addressing equity, public health, resiliency and biodiversity.
MAT owner Michael Tadin Jr. — who bid “more than double” the state’s asking price of $3.25 million, according to officials — has said his plan is to develop the property as a “state-of-the-art headquarters” for MAT. No further details have been released.
Activists in McKinley Park were the first to call on the state to postpone the sale and give the community an opportunity to weigh in on the decision.
Members of Neighbors for Environmental Justice have been at odds with MAT ever since Tadin opened MAT Asphalt in McKinley Park in 2017. The group has complained about air pollution, truck traffic and odors from the plant, assertions that Tadin has consistently refuted.
Organizations signing the letter to Gov. Pritzker: the Bridgeport Alliance, Friends of the Chicago River, the Illinois Environmental Council, Openlands, Metropolitan Planning Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, South Branch Park Advisory Council and Urban Rivers.