Developer purchase of giant U.S. Steel lakefront site could be delayed

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An aerial view of U.S. Steel’s old South Works site, near 85th Street and South Shore Drive. | Sun-Times file photo

Folks on the Southeast Side will have to wait a little longer to find out if a land deal will ultimately go through, possibly bringing 20,000 new homes — and thousands of jobs — to the long vacant U.S. Steel South Works site.

The deal between the developer, Emerald Living, and the owner of the land, U.S. Steel, was announced Aug. 1 for the 440-acre lakefront site.

But the agreement included a five month window for the developers to conduct due diligence, including an environmental review on the site before closing the sale.

On Tuesday, local Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) said the two parties had agreed to a five month extension of that window after contaminants were found at a spot on the site where, for decades, ships loaded down with iron ore transferred their loads to shore.

“They want more time to see how much it will cost to clean up,” Sadlowski Garza said of the developer.

“Hopefully the project will go forward and they’ll buy the property and develop it,” she said.

Meghan Cox, a spokeswoman forU.S. Steel,told the Sun-Times this week in anemail: “The due diligence is ongoing and we have no additional comment on the sale process at this time.”

A representative of Emerald Living — an international partnership between Barcelona Housing Systems and WELink Group of Dublin, Ireland — did not return an email seeking comment.

A spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who heralded the deal when it was first announced in August, declined to comment.

A representative of Cushman & Wakefield, U.S. Steel’s real estate broker on the deal, did not return messages seeking comment.

Emerald Living envisions building up to 20,000 modular homes and a plant to build them on the site, a potential boon to the economically depressed area.

However, neighborhood residents have learned to temper expectations of grand building projects on the site.

Other outsized plans have fallen through and the site has sat stubbornly vacant since the 1992 closing of the U.S. Steel South Works plant.

In its pitch to potential buyers, Cushman & Wakefield played up the site’s “proximity to Hyde Park, historic Pullman and world class institutions” like the University of Chicago and the future home of Barack Obama’s presidential library.

Other perks: skyline views and easy access to the I-90 and I-94 expressways and the new four-lane extension of Lake Shore Drive that runs through the property.

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