THREATENED: Crawford Power Station

Address: 35th and Pulaski
Architects: Graham, Anderson, Probst and White
Date: 1926
Style: Industrial Gothic
Neighborhood: Little Village / South Lawndale

The Crawford Power Station is fast approaching 100 years standing in the Little Village industrial corridor. After years of community organizing to eliminate the pollution it generated, the historic buildings stand as a testament to the community’s victory as well as a bygone time when great architecture was the standard for industrial corridor development. Little Village is part of the South Lawndale community area.

What has been proposed for the 70-acre Crawford Station site is a massive 1 million square-foot diesel truck staging, cross-dock facility by developer Hilco Redevelopment Partners.

Preservation Chicago strongly encourages the adaptive reuse of the historic buildings into a redevelopment plan with new construction located elsewhere on the vast 72-acre site. The historic Graham, Anderson, Probst and White buildings, especially Turbine Hall, are an asset that should be recognized, valued and protected.

The Little Village community has been over-studied in the last few years and wildly underrepresented in redevelopment plans. The planned Hilco development is a prime example of that imbalance. Instead of approving a plan in the name of a free market that threatens the safety and quality of life of community residents and destroys important architectural history of Chicago, Hilco could be a responsible corporate neighbor working with the community to find a healthy balance between the company’s profits and people’s right to live in a healthy and safe neighborhood – one that retains its historic built environment.

It is possible and essential to redevelop this site in a way that minimizes harm to the community, honors the history and architecture and yet profitable for the developer. Little Village residents should not be required to sacrifice their quality of life in exchange for Hilco maximizing its return on investment on the Crawford site.

In London, a once shuttered coal-fired plant built in 1947 was adaptively reused and is now the celebrated Tate Modern. This river-front art museum has become the third most visited attraction in the UK with 5.8 million visitors in 2016. That building faced repeated threats of demolition for nearly 20 years prior to its reuse in 2000. In Savannah, Georgia, the former Georgia Power Plant located on the Savannah River is being turned into a 670,000-square-foot, mixed-used development by Marriott.

Hilco recently acquired another significant property in the Pilsen community, the Fisk Generating Station at 1111 West Cermak. The company can practice profitable and sensitive redevelopment at Crawford to gear up for the same model at Fisk. Our city’s history should not be erased in the name of one company’s profits.

Preservation Chicago is not opposed to redevelopment for the site, but it strongly encourages the 1926 portion of the 72-acre campus be adaptively reused in any redevelopment plan. The historic structures could incorporate some of the existing equipment to tell a story of Chicago’s place on the world stage in the history of electricity and the production process. This concept was employed at the former Sears Roebuck headquarters on Chicago’s West Side where some of the old powerhouse equipment was integrated into the new high school, known as the Charles H. Shaw Technology and Learning Center operated by Noble Street Charter Schools.

Community residents, including those involved with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, favor a reuse on the site that retains the historic buildings and offers potentially food-related growing and production operations within those structures. Hilco could then find a use on the site’s vacant land that is respectful of the community’s quality of life goals. Jobs can be created and profits can be turned without causing harm to the community and erasing our historic built environment.

The 1 million-square-foot facility proposed at Crawford would never be considered on Chicago’s North or Northwest sides, and it should not be forced on the neighbors in Little Village/South Lawndale. Residents there have endured decades of disinvestment and environmental pollution with minimal investment of City resources toward protecting its built history.



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