Developer for South Works site ends contract

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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

It seemed like it was going to happen.

But an ambitious deal by an Irish developer to purchase the 440-acre U.S. Steel South Works site and transform it into a new neighborhood on the city’s southern lakefront is kaput.

“We can confirm that Emerald Living has terminated the contract to purchase our former South Works facility,” U.S. Steel spokeswoman Meghan Cox said Thursday afternoon in an email.

“We remain focused on selling the property for future redevelopment. We will be putting the property back on the market for sale, including approaching several parties that previously expressed interest in the property.”

The now-defunct deal was announced in August of last year and included a five-month window to assess any environmental cleanup that would need to be done before closing.

After contaminants were found near on the site, the window was extended by another five months.

“They want more time to see how much it will cost to clean up,” Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th), told the Sun-Times in December after both parties agreed to the extension.

In a statement Thursday, Sadlowski Garza said she was “disappointed by the news of the broken deal.

“I remain hopeful that we can find a deal that benefits the residents of the 10th ward and creates economic development for the city of Chicago,” she said.

Emerald Living had envisioned partnering with a Spanish firm to build 20,000 modular homes on the site.

A spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had championed the deal, said city officials “are disappointed about further delay given the site’s potential for new uses.

“The City will continue to work with U.S. Steel, elected officials and prospective buyers on redevelopment proposals that help to revitalize the site with one or more uses, including housing, job-generating economic development projects, open spaces and other quality of life amenities,” mayoral spokesman Grant Klinzman said.

It’s tough news, but 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.

Messages to Emerald Living were not immediately returned.

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