THREATENED: State Seeks to Unload Damen Silos

Damen Silos Clerestory Building, 2860 S. Damen Ave. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

“Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants to sell off an abandoned industrial site in Chicago best known as a backdrop for the 2014 Hollywood blockbuster ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction.’

“The state will accept bids this fall for Damen Silos at 2900 S. Damen Ave., along the South Branch of the Chicago River, a 23.4-acre property familiar to drivers on the Stevenson Expressway for its towering old grain silos.

“Officials said selling Damen Silos will relieve the state of a financial burden, and a buyer could transform it into a data center, telecom facility, cannabis business or an industrial complex, giving surrounding neighborhoods an economic lift.

“‘The sale of this surplus property will generate significant economic opportunities in Chicago’s Lower West Side and McKinley Park communities while also saving the State the cost of annual operating expenses,’ said Anthony Pascente, acting director of the state’s Central Management Services, in a prepared statement.

“It may not be an easy property to unload. The state tried to auction off Damen Silos in 2014, but officials ended up canceling the potential deal, according to Mike Senner, an industrial expert and executive vice president at Colliers International.

“Selling Damen Silos is part of Pritzker’s initiative to rid the state’s real estate portfolio of properties either obsolete or too expensive to maintain. The administration sealed its most prominent deal in that effort earlier in the summer when Google agreed to buy the James R. Thompson Center, which state officials estimate will save taxpayers nearly $1 billion over 30 years.

“The Illinois Department of Transportation took over Damen Silos from a railroad nearly a century ago, eventually using it to mix road construction materials. But in 2005, department officials said they had no more use for the property and transferred it to the state’s Central Management Services for disposal. By 2013, ‘Transformers’ director Michael Bay was using it to set off fiery explosions.

“The state is selling the property in ‘as-is’ condition, and initial bids, which must be a minimum of $3.25 million, are due by Oct. 19. Officials will choose the winning bid by November, according to a marketing flyer from commercial real estate firm JLL.” (Rogal, Chicago Tribune, 8/15/22)

“Built in 1906, the tallest structure reaches 15 stories tall and used to be served by a massive network of interlocking grain elevators, all combined the silos had a capacity of 400,000 bushels of grain. They were originally constructed by the Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, which was founded in 1859 and was headquartered in Chicago. It eventually grew into one of the largest railroad companies in the nation before being merged with Burlington Northern in 1995 to form the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway, or BNSF as it is more commonly known.” (Achong, Chicago Yimby, 8/23/22)

Read the full story at Chicago Tribune

Pritzker wants to sell off Damen Silos, industrial site that once served as a backdrop in ‘Transformers’ movie, Brian J. Rogal, Chicago Tribune, 8/15/22

New Details Revealed On The Sale Of Damen Silos In McKinley Park, Ian Achong, Chicago Yimby, 8/23/22

Damen Silos, Spot Beloved By Urban Explorers, Put Up For Sale By State — Opening Bid Is $3.25 Million; The silos have been beloved by urban explorers for years, with so many people stopping by to take pictures or film videos that it felt like “a Chicago tourist destination,” one said, Katie Finlon, Block Club Chicago, 8/22/22

Old dormant grain silos on South Side are an enduring industrial canvas for graffiti artists; Located along the Chicago River near Damen Avenue, the hulking structures dare and draw graffiti writers to their towers and snaking caverns below. The long-time owner of the site — state government — has been trying for decades to sell it for redevelopment, Sun-Times Staff, 11/26/21

The Damen Silos, American Urbex

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