Little Village residents and Chicagoans were horrified when the Little Village neighborhood was engulfed in a cloud of demolition dust for approximately 30 minutes on April 11, 2020 caused by Hilco and its demolition contractors’ grossly negligent implosion of a chimney stack at the Crawford Power Station. Preservation Chicago supports the Little Village community and City of Chicago in demanding a comprehensive investigation and holding Hilco fully accountable.
“We stand in solidarity with Little Village neighbors and the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization in their demands to protect the community,” said Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago Executive Director, “It’s clear that the City’s environmental oversight and permitting process is not rigorous enough to protect Chicago residents.”
Following the demolition implosion debacle, Mayor Lightfoot and the City of Chicago halted the demolition of Crawford Station. However, the photographic evidence is clear that demolition continued. Significant portions of the Crawford Station Turbine Hall were removed during the time of the demolition halt. Hilco is not operating in good faith and must be held accountable.
Now, the City of Chicago Department of Buildings claims that the remaining structure is unsafe and must be demolished. The structure would have been much more stable had the demolition halt been enforced.
Additionally, the front facade of Turbine Hall and the forward section of the return along both sides of the structure appear sound and stable. Prior to the commencement of any additional demolition work, a structural analysis of this section should be conducted by a third-party structural engineering firm. If the facade is confirmed as stable, then it should should be reinforced and braced prior to any additional demolition work taking place. The facade should be protected and incorporated into any final development at the site.
“City officials gave Heneghan Wrecking Co. permission to demolish the former turbine building at the power plant. Inspectors determined ‘the small building poses a public safety hazard because the building is structurally unsound and must be dismantled. A planned demolition of a building at the former Crawford Power Plant will take place June 5, after being delayed nearly three weeks after protests erupted and the local alderman objected, company officials announced. (Cherone, WTTW)
“While officials say the building is dangerous and must be demolished, one participant took issue with that. Mary Lu Seidel, who works with Preservation Chicago, said the building could be stabilized and reimagined with a new building behind it that could serve as a symbol of Hilco Global’s commitment to the community.
“‘Turbine hall is a significant historic structure,’ Seidel said. (In 2019, Preservation Chicago named the Crawford Power Station to its most endangered buildings list.) ‘(I’ve) seen much more unstable buildings stabilized and restored. The city should command Hilco to do that with turbine hall.’
“Frydland said the building was ‘structurally unsound,’ and while the city has worked with Preservation Chicago on other projects, ‘they were not in the condition of this building. This is an extremely hazardous and dangerous condition.'” (Thometz, 5/24/20)
“Communities benefit from sound practices that protect it environmentally, historically and culturally,” said Ward Miller. “It is time we make sure that future decisions are aligned with the community’s needs and with the people of Chicago.”
When Crawford Station was built in 1926, it was considered an engineering wonder of the world. It was designed by one of Chicago’s most respected architectural firms Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, who also designed Chicago Union Station, Soldier Field, Field Museum, Merchandise Mart, Shedd Aquarium and Chicago’s Main Post Office.
The $19.7 million of public funds allocated to the redevelopment of the Crawford site should be reallocated to a responsible, community-oriented developer to adaptively reuse Crawford’s Turbine Hall facade, which is still standing. Crawford’s Turbine Hall facade should be converted to a use that meets the needs of the community.
The increased pollution from hundreds of idling diesel trucks at the proposed 1-million-square-foot truck distribution facility will have a powerfully negative health impact on the community, and it should not be allowed to move forward.
Crawford Power Station was a Preservation Chicago Most Endangered in 2014 and 2019. Fisk Power Station in Pilsen was a Preservation Chicago Most Endangered in 2014. Fisk Power Station was purchased by Hilco in 2019. Immediate steps must be taken to prevent Hilco from demolishing Fisk Power Station.