Unless ComEd decides to place a higher value on the history of the Bronzeville community and honor the historic Hermann von Holst-designed substation at 626 E. 40th Street, the building will be demolished starting the week of October 7.
Despite calls from the community and preservation advocates to release this building for a private restoration, ComEd has not altered its plans to tear down the building and use the vacant lot for storage. Bronzeville is already burdened by many vacant lots and the erosion of its historic buildings and unique character, yet ComEd plans to inflict further damage to the neighborhood.
Other substations in Chicago have been successfully restored and reused, yet ComEd marches forward with its demolition plans. Independent parties have toured inside the space and see no signs of irreparable structural damage. Given its location adjacent to several large city-owned lots, it would be an ideal location for restoration of the substation and new construction of additional housing units.
Over the past year, multiple private developers have expressed interest in the site, but ComEd has refused to provide any information to allow them to do complete their analysis of its viability for redevelopment. Preservation Chicago continues to urge ComEd to stop its destructive planning and offer up this property for private development.
By selling the historic building, ComEd would have generated sales income plus avoided the cost of environmental remediation and demolition. They could have then purchased a larger, more conveniently located vacant lot to store their equipment and still showed a profit.
While it is unlikely ComEd will “see the light” prior to the demolition wrecking of 626 E. 40th Street, Preservation Chicago is hopeful that the ComEd’s embarrassment due to widespread community support, the strong response to the online petition and the attention from the press including the Chicago Tribune will encourage them to more forward-thinking going forward with its other dormant substations – especially 6141 S. Prairie.
“Those leading efforts to halt the demolition said Bronzeville has long been an under-invested neighborhood in need of economic revitalization, and would benefit from the substation being redeveloped instead of demolished.
“That substation is a handsome, well constructed building in an area that has an abundance of vacant and unused lots,” said Bernard Loyd, a co-founder of Preservation Bronzeville. “That building represents a link to an important past use and an opportunity for a creative reuse that would help activate all of the vacant spaces around it.”
“ComEd’s plan to tear down the substation comes less than a year after a 1906 Boston Store stable in Bronzeville, just several blocks south of the substation, was demolished. That demolition largely prompted the creation of Preservation Bronzeville, Loyd said.” (Chen, 9/13/19)