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Emanuel Unveils Plans To Redevelop Sites Of Coal Plants, Old Asphalt Factory

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Saturday unveiled plans to redevelop three old industrial sites on the Southwest Side – including the two infamous coal plants that closed last month.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti reports, for years, Chicago was the only major U.S. city with two coal-fired power plants operating within its city limits. Now that both the Fisk and Crawford plants shut down last month, the city is drawing up redevelopment plans.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti reports

Mayor Emanuel says the property’s access to infrastructure such as the city’s broadband backbone, as well as to transportation and the Chicago River system, makes both sites prime candidates for development.

“Most importantly, as we think about these properties, they go from coal power plants that used to be in the city, to I think, potentially, great assets for the communities and the city, in the sense of different types of either light industrial, residential, commercial or retail spaces,” Emanuel said.

The coal plants, owned by Midwest Generation drew concerns for decades about the health risks they posed to residents around their sites – Fisk at 1111 W. Cermak Rd. in the Pilsen neighborhood, and Crawford at 3501 S. Pulaski Rd. in the Little Village neighborhood.

The emissions from the plants created a very heavy black or white powder that requires constant cleaning and makes residents prisoners in their homes, precluding them from full use and enjoyment of their properties, the suit said. Some of the chemicals generated also are extra hazardous and are known carcinogens.

Mayor Emanuel wanted the facilities closed, and ultimately succeeded in getting Midwest Generation to shut both of down last month. An earlier agreement with the state would have kept them open until 2018.

The mayor on Saturday also announced an $8 million investment in the old Celotex asphalt factory, at 31st Street and Albany Avenue Little Village to be turned into a neighborhood park. It will feature walking trails, a skating park, and baseball fields.

The site had been vacant for almost 20 years. The park is expected to be completed by 2014.

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