Audience members offered a range of ideas at a city hearing last night about what to do with the site currently occupied by the 108 year-old Fisk coal-fired power plant in the Pilsen neighborhood, which closes this September. Some of the ideas included a park, funeral home, public market, trade school, and even a high school sports complex.
But all these visions will be stymied if the Midwest Generation company cannot find a buyer willing to not just build something new but also clean up, or remediate, the site.
“There is a huge marketing job ahead of us,” acknowledged Jean Pogge, CEO of the Delta Institute, the Chicago non-profit in charge of a task force Mayor Rahm Emanuel created to determine the site’s future.
Emanuel and Midwest Generation reached a deal in February to close the Fisk plant and also the Crawford coal plant in Little Village.
Most of the task force attended the hearing last night in the working class, mostly Latino neighborhood, including Doug McFarlan, a spokesman for Midwest Generation, Pilsen Ald. Danny Solis (25th), and representatives from the activist groups Pilsen Alliance and Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO).
According to McFarlan, Midwest Generation is focused now at unloading both the Fisk and Crawford power plant sites. “We could choose to redevelop the sites, but right now that’s not in our plans or interests,” he said.
McFarlan promised audience members that Midwest Generation would keep the site “safe and secure” and also bring any potential buyer before the community. The spokesman added that the company has received preliminary offers, and he is confident a potential buyer that would be willing to clean up the site could be found.
PERRO and Pilsen Alliance gave the results of community surveys they took that showed a desire for green space and “clean manufacturing” jobs.
As with the format of most city hearings, each community member got three minutes before the task force. Some like Leila Mendez, a Pilsen community member who is active in PERRO, used their time to excoriate Midwest Generation. “There is blood on your hands,” Mendez told McFarlan. A 2010 Clean Air Task force report linked Fisk to premature deaths and heart attacks.
Others offered specific, unique ideas. For example, Victoria Romero, who said she has lived in Pilsen since her family moved there 40 years ago suggested, a funeral home.
“When our family members die we have no place to lie their bodies,” Romero said. “We don’t have one single funeral home with ample parking for large Latino families.”
A hearing will take place in the Little Village neighborhood Thursday night about the future of the Crawford power plant site.