City promises Damen Silos demolition will be different than Little Village debacle

City officials promised residents Tuesday that the planned demolition of the massive century-old grain storage structures known as the Damen Silos on the Southwest Side would be done with safeguards aimed at avoiding environmental hazards. 

However, dozens of people attending a public meeting at Arturo Velasquez Institute questioned whether the city will give fair warning to neighbors about the process, conduct robust air pollution monitoring, control dust and take the extra safety steps that will avoid a debacle like the botched implosion of the former Crawford coal-fired power plant in Little Village three years ago.

“We care about our children, we care about the air we breathe,” McKinley Park resident Erica Montenegro told a panel of city officials at the meeting, imploring them to publicly provide timely air quality data if the demolition is approved and gets underway.

The new owner of the silos and adjacent structures is seeking city permission to demolish and redevelop the property, which is in an industrial area along the river. 

The planning around the long-shuttered silos is being scrutinized under rules put in place after the Crawford incident. An implosion toppled an almost 400-foot chimney at Crawford that came crashing down, creating a large dust cloud that threatened residents’ health on Easter Weekend 2020. 

The Damen Silos, near 29th and Damen, includes two sets of 80-foot concrete silos, a tower that’s around 110-feet tall and three buildings that are one to two-stories high and mostly dilapidated. Their planned destruction and removal falls under a city category known as “environmentally complex” demolition and no implosion will be allowed. 

Chicago Building Commissioner Matthew Beaudet promised a “safe, slow process” that will take several months if the demolition permits are granted.

Some preservationists and residents questioned why the Damen Silos should come down at all and said they hoped for some sort of reuse.

The state sold the property, which includes more than 20 acres along the river, to businessman Michael Tadin Jr. and his family for $6.5 million. Tadin is a city contractor as co-owner of MAT Asphalt, 2055 W. Pershing, which has been a target of complaints by a number of McKinley Park neighbors. 

Tadin hasn’t said what he will do with the property, but he said he plans to demolish the silos and has hired Heneghan Wrecking. 

Kurt Berger, Heneghan’s director of operations, also assured residents at the Tuesday meeting that his company will take precautions and slowly dismantle the structures. 

If the demolition goes forward, there would be another set of approvals Tadin would need before developing. 

“We will evaluate what type of use is best for the property,” Tadin said in a statement to the Sun-Times. “This process will take a few years.”

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust. City promises Damen Silos demolition will be different than Little Village debacle

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