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Report: DuSable Park Site Near Navy Pier Nearly Clear Of Radioactive Soil

DuSable Park Radiation Sign

A sign warns of radiation at the DuSable Park site in 2008. (Credit: Skateboard Chicago/Public Domain)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A published report says the long-planned DuSable Park could soon be ready for development along the lake just south of Navy Pier.

Plans go back some 25 years for a park at right on the lake between Ogden Slip and the Chicago River’s Main Branch. But until now, contamination from radioactive thorium has prevented those plans from advancing.

But Chicago Park District engineer Daniel Cooper now tells the Chicago Architecture Blog that remediation work at the site to eradicate the thorium is “just about complete.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tells the blog that the Park District should soon be sending bags of contaminated soil, which will be disposed of at a toxic Superfund site.

Plans for DuSable Park were announced back n 1987 by late Mayor Harold Washington. The property had belonged historically to the Chicago Dock and Canal Trust, which gave a developer the option of building new residential towers after Lake Point Tower was completed just to the north in 1968.

Mayor Richard J. Daley blocked the development plan under the Lakefront Protection Ordinance, and nothing was built. The Chicago Park District officially took over the site through a quit claim deed in 1988, and plans for development have been plodding along ever since.

But the site has remained vacant and overgrown – and contaminated with thorium that is believed to have originated with the Lindsay Light and Chemical Company that operated in Streeterville from 1904 to 1936, the Architecture Blog reported. Radiation was still detected on the site during tests as recently as 2008, the blog reported.

But the EPA more recently donated $250,000 to dig up 115 cubic yards of dirt at the would-be park, and to ship it off in plastic bags to the Superfund site, the blog reported.

Once all the dirt has been taken away, development of the park can begin.

The DuSable Park site is directly opposite Lake Shore Drive from the location where the 2,000-foot Chicago Spire tower was once supposed to rise from the ground.

Ground was broken for the building in 2007, but construction was stopped the following year. After a $77 million foreclosure lawsuit was filed in 2010 against developer Shelbourne Development Group Inc., the Spire project was officially declared dead – never to amount to more than a broad, round hole in the ground that would have been the foundation.