CHICAGO | The future of the former U.S. Steel South Works plant at 86th Street on Lake Michigan includes an upscale residential and commercial development between the South Chicago and South Shore neighborhoods that would include public parks along the lakefront.
It was that latter goal that brought Gov. Pat Quinn to the city’s Southeast Side on Friday.
Quinn was at the 589-acre site of the old steel mill, where topsoil dredged from the Illinois River near Peoria was used to create a new Chicago lakefront park. The effort was part of the state’s “Mud-to-Parks program” that is a part of the joint state/federal Millennium Reserve initiative meant to restore and create green space on the South Side and surrounding suburbs.
“Mud-to-Parks is helping return the soil to where it belongs, while providing habitat and boosting recreational opportunities,” Quinn said, in a prepared statement.
“Some of the richest soil on the continent originally came from the watershed,” Quinn said. “We’ve put people to work taking sediment that was clogging the Illinois River and putting it to good use on this magnificent site.”
Some 232,000 tons of sediment loaded onto 79 barges were brought 163 miles north to the South Works site where it was spread over 25 acres of land that once was steel mill slag.
Quinn, during his visit to the site, got to see signs of native grasses and small trees that are beginning to sprout.
The project was funded by $8 million in bonds sold by the state in 2009. Illinois Department of Natural Resources officials said dredged soil also has been used for cover at a landfill in Pekin, and a strip-mined portion of the Banner Marsh State Fish and Wildlife Area near Canton.
Natural Resources Director Marc Miller said many interests benefit from the program. “Removing silt from the Illinois River opens shipping lanes, enhances habitat and improves recreational access,” he said.
Development of park lands within the old South Works site would be another sign that the proposed Lakeside Development project will become a reality some day.
Although the old steel plant has been cleared from the site, the land now sits vacant, except for an under-construction extension of South Shore Drive to 87th Street and Avenue O that will provide the major access to the development when it is built.
Officials with McCafferty Interests have said their development would include 13,000 residential units and 17.5 million square feet of commercial and institutional space, along with lakefront park land and a space reserved for a possible presidential museum in the future for Barack Obama. This new community would be split between the 10th and 7th wards.