Notorious West Side dump site known as Mount Henry turning into ‘beacon of hope’

On Friday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot took the first step toward turning a symbol of corruption and neglect into a $68 million project that will transform the notorious, 21-acre dump site at Roosevelt and Kostner into a solar-powered hub.

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The city broke ground Friday on a $68 million project that will transform the notorious, 21-acre dump site at Roosevelt and Kostner into a solar-powered hub for light manufacturing with two innovation centers for workforce training, a park and retail space.

The city broke ground Friday on a $68 million project that will transform the notorious, 21-acre dump site at Roosevelt and Kostner into a solar-powered hub for light manufacturing with two innovation centers for workforce training, a park and retail space.

Photo by Brian Jackson

During her days as a federal prosecutor, Lori Lightfoot heard a lot about the pile of debris at Roosevelt and Kostner that came to be known as “Mount Henry” for the West Side alderman who allowed the environmental disaster to happen, allegedly in exchange for bribes from an FBI mole.

“I marveled at the time, `How is it possible that this could have been happening?’ And this just grew and grew and grew. And with it, the corruption that followed,” Lightfoot said, without mentioning indicted Ald. William C. Henry (24th), who died before his federal corruption trail could be completed.

“We should not live in or tolerate a city that allows a six-story trash dump to grow and grow and grow and not only be a blight in the way that it looked, but a blight in the way that it’s impacted the health and well-being and the outlook and the hope and opportunity of people in any community, let alone the West Side.”

On Friday, Lightfoot took the first step toward turning a symbol of corruption and neglect during Operation Silver Shovel into what she hopes will be a “beacon of hope” for North Lawndale and the entire West Side.

With less than two weeks to go until the mayoral election, Lightfoot broke ground on a $68 million project that will transform the notorious, 21-acre dump site at Roosevelt and Kostner made possible by the bribes doled out by FBI mole John Christopher into a solar-powered hub for light manufacturing with two “innovation” centers for workforce training, a park and retail space.

Together, the Chicago-based team of 548 Development and Related Midwest plan four new buildings, including a pair of industrial warehouses, each with 181,760 square feet of space. They hope to build on the neighborhood’s “strengths in freight and logistics,” creating 250 temporary jobs and 250 permanent jobs in the process.

Related Midwest and 548 Development won a heated competition for the much-maligned site, in part, because of the jobs they planned to create. They won out over flashier proposals, including a joint-venture between the Chicago Cubs and Pritzker Realty Group that would have divided the property between an industrial building and a youth baseball camp.

It didn’t hurt that 548 Development is led by Black entrepreneur A.J. Patton, who forged an alliance with Related Midwest, which is better known for building luxury downtown high-rises and affordable multi-family homes.

The project that is part of Lightfoot’s signature Invest South/West initiative was helped along by an $8 million tax-increment-financing (TIF) subsidy and 21 acres of city-owned land sold for the bargain price of $1-per-lot.

For Lightfoot, the timing of the groundbreaking was no accident, and it couldn’t have been better.

The mayor is fighting for her political life as one of four candidates vying for two spots in the April 4 runoff. One of seven Black candidates, she’s counting on strong support from West Side resident to carry her over the finish line.

“This development will be a beacon of light for everyone on the West Side. For far too long, people left this community because they lost hope. They left this community because they got tired of waiting for things to turn,” Lightfoot said.

“When you have this permanent construction here showing that the needs of the West Side are being met, every day people are gonna drive by and say, `The seemingly impossible was actually possible.’ And we did it here on the West Side under the toughest circumstance. We got it done.”

Local Ald. Monique Scott (24th), who was appointed by Lightfoot to fill the seat vacated by her brother, said she’s lived in North Lawndale for 51 years. But she has “never seen anything like” the project that will “change the face” of the 24th Ward and how local residents live.

“I can remember being in grade school seeing firsthand the piles of debris and still today the ugly that many have merely heard about. The civic neglect and institutional racism that allowed the dump to happen in the first place has continued long after the last truck of debris was carted away,” Scott said.

“Today, we are embarking on a change. A change that many residents won’t believe until they see it.”

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