North Branch Works (NBW) has been awarded a Brownfields Area-Wide Planning grant for $200,000 from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a 2-year planning effort focused on redevelopment of the A. Finkl & Sons steel forging plant and the neighboring former Gutmann Tannery and A. Lakin & Sons sites. The proposal, submitted last November, is being funded as part of the US EPA, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Partnership for Sustainable Communities. In order to qualify for this highly competitive grant, North Branch Works had to obtain a letter of support from the City’s Department of Housing and Economic Development. NBW also obtained a letter of support from US Congressman Mike Quigley. North Branch Works will partner with the Delta Institute in developing this project (see Delta institute profile below for more information).
The Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Program grant funding is intended to enable North Branch Works to Work With the community and to perform the research needed to develop an area-wide plan and implementation strategies that Could lead to the future assessment, cleanup, and reuse of the Finkl, Lakin and Gutmann sites.
Our interest in this project was prompted by the announcement in 2006 by principles at A. Finkl and Sons of their need for expansion space for the mill and the subsequent purchase of the company by Schmolz+Bickenbach of Germany, the World’s largest steel forging company. The purchase by Schmolz of Finkl enabled the firm to acquire and achieve much needed expansion space at the site of the former Verson Steel plant on East 93rd Street.
Concerned about the future of the Current Finkl site (which spans two Planned Manufacturing Districts-the Clybourn Corridor and the Elston Corridor PMDS) and wanting to ensure that productive, PMD-eligible uses are promoted for the site, North Branch Works began to consider redevelopment strategies including development of an industrial park for the site. Initial outreach and discussions on this project in 2007 by staff of North Branch Works learned that the owners of the Gutmann Tannery site and A. Lakin & Sons were also interested in selling their property and tied the future of their sites to the redevelopment of the Finkl property.
The Brownfields Area-wide Planning grant will now enable North Branch Works to conduct a planning process for developing reuse plans for the three key sites, with outreach to the industrial, commercial and residential communities nearby and to hire consultants to conduct: basic research into the known environmental conditions of the sites; market studies to assess the market and position the project to attract end users and companies; assessment of existing infrastructure and recommendations for needed infrastructure investment to support the plan; as well as other research and analysis needed to develop a reuse plan for the sites and plan implementation strategy.
NBW understands that all three property owners have individual goals for their properties that may or may not include PMD-related uses. However, we will actively seek to engage all three property owners during this planning process and work to create a plan that strengthens the Planned Manufacturing Districts and their 30+ years of industrial retention and development policy, planning, and investment by firms and key community stakeholders located in the North Branch Industrial Corridor.
According to Mike Holzer, Director of Economic Development with North Branch Works, these sites are uniquely situated within Chicago’s north side industrial sub-market due to their proximity to infrastructure that supports industry, PMD-zoning, strong private investment by industry throughout the industrial corridor and proximity to a highly skilled workforce and educational institutions. “With the EPA planning funding now available, the highly sought after characteristics of these particular development sites can form the basis of a future industrial/business park”, said Holzer.
For more information on this project please Contact Mike Holzer, Director of Economic Development, North Branch Works at 773-929-5552 x225 or Mike@northbranchworks.org
EPA has selected the Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Council (now doing business as North Branch Works) as a Brownfields Area-Wide Planning grant recipient. North Branch Works will work with the community and other stakeholders to develop an area-wide plan and implementation strategy for three contiguous brownfields sites in the North River Industrial brownfields area. This area was among the heaviest industrial operations on the north side of Chicago.
North Branch Works will engage the community, conduct existing conditions research, and do brownfields site reuse planning to create viable options for equitable ire-development in the form of industrial reuse and good-paying jobs. Key partners for this project include the City of Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development, World Business Chicago, Alderman Waguespack (32nd) and Alderman Fioretti (2nd), and various other city officials, businesses, and community organizations.
North Branch Works
North Branch Works is the leading community development organization in the North River and Addison Industrial Corridors. For over 30 years, the Local Economic & Employment Development Council has promoted environmentally sustainable economic development intrinsically linked to workforce development and job creation. Now as North Branch Works, we continue to emphasize new growth, proper land use and area revitalization through our business advocacy and innovative solutions.
With our local expertise and deep city and neighborhood relationships, as the leading business development organization in this area, we know the local issues, players and opportunities in the North River Industrial and Addison Corridors better than anyone else. Our neighborhood expertise and relationships have helped grow the local economic base and promote the sustainability of PMDs. We advocate on behalf of business interests with the City through our Infrastructure Task Force and other vehicles, and provide workforce development, consulting and community partnerships to help businesses thrive.
We achieve our mission by training disadvantaged unemployed and underemployed workers, enabling them to acquire marketable job skills and the opportunity to obtain local jobs with good wages.
North Branch Works’ programs include expert consulting to local businesses, computer and “green” skills training programs for job-seekers, job placement services and retention assistance for trainees. North Branch Works also creates targeted workforce development services for employers, including customized recruitment and training programs, applicant screening, and job matching. In 2011, North Branch Works assisted in the development of the Green Exchange in Logan Square, a “green” business center. North Branch Works spearheaded Worklocal.org, a unique community jobs initiative, in collaboration with the City and neighborhood organizations, where job seekers can register, search for jobs and get connected to local job opportunities.
EPA Brownfields Program
EPA`s Brownfields Program empowers states, communities, and other stakeholders to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields. A brownfield site is real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or Contaminant. In 2002, the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act was passed to help states and communities around the country clean up and revitalize brownfields sites. Under this law, EPA provides financial assistance to eligible applicants through competitive grant programs for brownfields site assessment, site cleanup, revolving loan funds, area-wide planning, and job training.
EPA Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Program
EPA’S Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Program assists communities in responding to local brownfields challenges, particularly where multiple brownfield sites are in close proximity, connected by infrastructure, and limit the economic, environmental and social prosperity of their surroundings. This program enhances EPA’s core brownfields assistance programs by providing grant funding to communities so they can perform the research needed to develop an area-wide plan and implementation strategies for brownfields assessment, cleanup, and reuse. The resulting area-wide plans provide direction for future brownfields area improvements that are protective of public health and the environment, economically viable, and reflective of the community’s vision for the area.
Delta Institute is a non-profit organization that serves as a catalyst for environmental sustainability and economic development across the Great Lakes region. Delta works in partnership with business, government and communities in the Great Lakes region to create and implement innovative, market driven solutions that build environmental resilience, economic vitality and healthy communities.