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West Chicago holds 1st public meeting as part of cleanup grant process for downtown development

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 12:48 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:43 a.m. CDT

WEST CHICAGO – In an effort to engage the community, the city of West Chicago held a public meeting Tuesday to share information on its plans to apply for grants to help with the environmental cleanup of a key redevelopment site near downtown.

The city is applying for $200,000 grants for two parcels of land that are part of the West Washington Street Redevelopment Project area north of West Washington Street and west of Fremont Street.

Potential plans for the area include building a new city hall, town square or village green outdoor space, commercial and residential developments and parking areas. These plans, while conceptual in nature, have been discussed for several years.

The area is contaminated by materials such as heavy metals, semi-volatile organic compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls and radioactive contaminants, because of its history as a rail and coach yard with adjoining factories, lumberyard and waterworks, as well as a scrap iron and steel salvage yard.

As part of the application process for the grants totaling $400,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the city is expected to engage and partner with the community.

"We are doing all the steps that we can to try to be successful," said John Said, West Chicago's community development director.

The Tuesday meeting allowed city officials and representatives from Roux Associates, Inc. – the firm helping the city with the application process – to present information on the grants and to answer questions.

Residents are encouraged to view the draft application on the city's website, www.westchicago.org, or in-person at the West Chicago Public Library, 118 W. Washington St., or West Chicago City Hall, 475 Main St.

The city also is seeking letters of support from community groups for its application.

Grant applications are expected to include discussions of community need, project description and feasibility of success, community engagement and partnership, project benefits, and programmatic capability and past performance, said Patricia Morris Bryan, principal geologist with Roux Associates.

The city originally intended to apply for one grant for the entire area, but with the encouragement of EPA officials, it will divide the land into two sites and apply for a grant for each, Morris Bryan said.

A second public meeting, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 14, will review the public input received.

Grant applications are due Jan. 22.

The EPA is expected to award 61 cleanup grants nationwide. Typically, recipients are announced in May, but the process was delayed by the government shutdown last year, Morris Bryan said.

The project area currently is home to a vacant fire and police station, a former waterworks building, an old freight depot, a current water tower and an existing gas station, as well as a floodplain and wetlands.

"It does help the process if we are able to secure the grant funding. There's no doubt about it," Said said. "Any little bit we can get is helpful. It's helpful to the community."

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If you go

What: Public meeting on West Chicago's EPA grant application When: 7 p.m. Jan. 14 Where: City Hall, 475 Main St. 

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