City promises Damen Silos demolition will be different than Little Village debacle

Dozens of residents voiced concerns about the planned destruction of the massive Southwest Side structures along the river.

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Se acaba el tiempo para evitar la demolición de los históricos silos de grano, situados junto al Río Chicago, cerca de la calle 29th y la Avenida Damen. | Mark Capapas/Archivos Sun-Times

The city is trying to assure residents that plenty of safeguards will be in place if the owner of the Damen Silos wins approval to demolish the massive structures.

Mark Capapas/Sun-Times file

City officials promised residents Tuesday that the planned demolition of the massive century-old grain storage structures known as the Damen Silos on the Southwest Side would be done with safeguards aimed at avoiding environmental hazards.

However, dozens of people attending a public meeting at Arturo Velasquez Institute questioned whether the city will give fair warning to neighbors about the process, conduct robust air pollution monitoring, control dust and take the extra safety steps that will avoid a debacle like the botched implosion of the former Crawford coal-fired power plant in Little Village three years ago.

“We care about our children, we care about the air we breathe,” McKinley Park resident Erica Montenegro told a panel of city officials at the meeting, imploring them to publicly provide timely air quality data if the demolition is approved and gets underway.

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The new owner of the silos and adjacent structures is seeking city permission to demolish and redevelop the property, which is in an industrial area along the river.

The planning around the long-shuttered silos is being scrutinized under rules put in place after the Crawford incident. An implosion toppled an almost 400-foot chimney at Crawford, creating a large dust cloud that threatened residents’ health on Easter weekend 2020.

The Damen Silos, near 29th Street and Damen Avenue, include two sets of 80-foot concrete silos, a tower that’s about 110 feet tall and three buildings that are one to two stories high and mostly dilapidated. Their planned destruction and removal falls under a city category known as “environmentally complex” demolition and no implosion will be allowed.

Chicago Building Commissioner Matthew Beaudet promised a “safe, slow process” that will take several months if the demolition permits are granted.

Some preservationists and residents questioned why the Damen Silos should come down at all and said they hoped for some sort of reuse.

The state sold the property, which includes more than 20 acres along the river, to businessman Michael Tadin Jr. and his family for $6.5 million. Tadin is a city contractor as co-owner of MAT Asphalt, 2055 W. Pershing Road, which has been a target of complaints by a number of McKinley Park neighbors.

Tadin hasn’t said what he will do with the property, but he said he plans to demolish the silos and has hired Heneghan Wrecking.

Kurt Berger, Heneghan’s director of operations, also assured residents at the Tuesday meeting that his company will take precautions and slowly dismantle the structures.

If the demolition goes forward, there would be another set of approvals Tadin would need before developing.

“We will evaluate what type of use is best for the property,” Tadin said in a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times. “This process will take a few years.”

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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