By Kevin Beese
The proposed paving of an uneven gravel parking lot is not the kind of event that usually brings out Cook County and local dignitaries.
However, when the parcel’s history is as marred as a Maywood parcel’s was, the project’s importance is elevated.
The gravel parking lot next to Seaway Supply Co. on Maywood’s Eighth Avenue used to be a brownfield site, having the presence or potential presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants. Seaway, which hopes to expand its existing business in addition to paving the lot as part of the development of the adjacent parcel, is one of four brownfield redevelopment projects already under way in the West Cook area.
“Brownfield sites typically sit underused for long periods of time,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said at a July 13 event touting the accomplishments. “The redevelopment and reuse of brownfield sites is a great opportunity for economic development – redeveloped sites generate revenue and jobs while helping the environment.”
Maywood and Bellwood are two of seven west suburban municipalities in partnership with Cook County to return brownfield properties to productive use. The coalition, which includes Schiller Park, Franklin Park, Northlake, Melrose Park and Forest Park, as well as the Cook County Department of Environmental Control, received a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2014 to assess brownfield sites.
Through the program, 30 sites totaling 127 acres were assessed and more than 120 acres are undergoing reuse planning or redevelopment.
Seaway being able to expand keeps the janitorial and maintenance supplies wholesale distributor’s 10 jobs in Maywood.
Thomas Engoren, president of Seaway, said it was his good fortune to move to the village
“The work done by Cook County and the coalition means my business, Seaway Supply Co., can stay in Maywood and expand here – in a community I am proud to be a part of,” Engoren said.
In addition to Seaway’s potential expansion (0.65 acres), other local brownfield redevelopment projects are:
- 2715, 2801 and 2821 Grant St., Bellwood (3.8 acres) – W-R Industries, Inc. will use the 30,000-square-foot building at 2715 Grant for its printing supply manufacturing operations. MDA Rug Imports will use 2801 Grant to store and ship rugs worldwide. Urban Transformation Farms will be using 2821 Grant for job-training and agricultural programs.
- Maywood Park racetrack (55.6 acres) -The site is under contract for redevelopment and is deemed suitable for redevelopment as commercial and/or industrial use. County officials had no information about the potential redevelopment, but said that redeveloping the site could create 100 new jobs.
- 10601 Franklin Ave., Franklin Park (48 acres) – The site is under contract for redevelopment with 700,000 square feet of new warehouse buildings planned. The redevelopment is also anticipated to create 100 new jobs.
Cook County Commissioner Pete Silvestri, former mayor of Elmwood Park, said he is always excited to see individuals working together for the common good, such as with brownfield restoration. “As a former mayor, I know how important it is to redevelop our existing communities, our aging communities in the Near West suburbs which play an important part in Cook County,” Silvestri said. “… Congratulations to the communities of the coalition, the mayors and their boards who participated in this and made it really the success that it is; and I think there’s many great things coming.”
County Commissioner Richard Boykin said he could think of no better place for a brownfield redevelopment to happen than in Maywood. “The village of Maywood has had significant challenges as it relates to unemployment and businesses leaving,” said Boykin, whose district includes Maywood. “Anytime we can get a business to come in and expand, that’s what this is all about. This economic development will be a shot in the arm for residents who want jobs, who want to work here. It’s good for our tax base. It’s good for everybody.”
Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins said the brownfield redevelopment program has been a boost to the village. “This program allowed the village of Maywood to receive funding for environmental assessments that will lead to redevelopment of several vacant lots that had no hope for redevelopment,” Perkins said. “This program has restored hope and serves as a beacon for regional coalitions and public partnerships.”