THREATENED: Community Unanimously Rejects Planned Demolition of Damen Silos (Chicago 7 2023)

The Damen Silos on Chicago’s Lower West Side on Aug. 22, 2023. The facility has been out of use since the late 1970s except for occasional movie shoots. Damen Silos, 1906, John Metcalf (civil engineer), 2860 S. Damen Ave. A 2023 Chicago 7 Most Endangered. Photo Credit: Trent Sprague/Chicago Tribune
Statement from Alderwoman Julia Ramírez in support of preservation and reuse of the Damen Grain Silos in posted on August 23, 2023. Image credit: Office of Alderwoman Julia Ramírez
Letter from Alderwoman Julia Ramírez in support of preservation and reuse of the Damen Grain Silos in dated February 9, 2024. Image credit: Office of Alderwoman Julia Ramírez

“Time is running out for efforts to save the Damen Silos on the Southwest Side from being torn down, but negotiations will start soon to determine how to commemorate the historic grain structures near the site.

“Despite pleas from community members and preservationists at a meeting in McKinley Park on Thursday night, the options for keeping the structures from being demolished by owner Michael Tadin Jr. appear to be limited.

“Tadin applied to the city to demolish the massive structures. The former grain storage site was first developed in 1905 and includes two sets of 80-foot concrete silos, a tower that is around 110 feet tall, and three mostly dilapidated buildings one to two stories tall.

“The city will have to approve the demolition to review environmental and health safeguards, but first, the buildings will have to undergo a review by the Army Corps, which has already determined that the area on the Chicago River has historic significance and that ‘a complete demolition” of the buildings ‘would constitute an adverse effect’ to the surrounding community.

“‘This could be as varied as preservation of art on the silos and buildings, incorporation of materials into future walking paths and the like,’ Army Corps project manager Colin Smalley told the Sun-Times. ‘The Corps does not desire any particular outcome.’

“Tadin, who owns the controversial MAT Asphalt plant in McKinley Park, has not said what he wants to do with the Damen Silos property. He has said he won’t put an asphalt plant there.

“Some residents at the meeting Thursday said they didn’t believe him, and Ald. Julia Ramirez (12th) announced she plans to try to change the zoning designation for that property within the planned manufacturing district where it sits.

“Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago, said there may be some middle ground to preserve a piece of the silos, possibly with a connection to a new building and green space.

“‘I would hope the owner would listen to the community and the stakeholders,’ Miller said. ‘At the end of the day — if he demolishes this — we may be looking at a park. There are ways for public good to make this happen.’

“Miller, however, would love to see the silos reused as public art or some other creative use. He hopes the community input and suggestions will help tailor a plan for the newly developed site.

“Tadin, on the other hand, is adamant that all the buildings are going to be destroyed, and he will work out an agreement for some historical marker.

Preservation Chicago has been concerned over the fate of the Damen Silos for many years. Damen Silos site became a 2023 Chicago 7 2023, after the State of Illinois’ decision to sell the the site, and the recent demolitions of the Crawford Power Station and the ADM Silos. There is additional concern over the buyer of the site to the owners of MAT Asphalt which set up an unpermitted asphalt plant on Pershing Road adjacent to the Central Manufacturing District. The noxious odors from this plant have been a heavy burden on residents and is the direct cause for blocking a large-scale affordable housing reuse of a massive CMD building from advancing.

Preservation Chicago has been working closely with preservation partners, and has met with the Alderwoman and city officials to advocate to prevent the demolition of the Damen Silos. The MAT ownership has not disclosed what they intend to build on the site.

Preservation Chicago would like to see a public green-space ribbon park created along the riverfront to extend the existing Canalport Riverwalk Park.

Read the full story at Chicago Sun-Times

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