Franklin Park Officials Aim for ‘Success Stories’ with ‘Brownfield’ Grant Funds

Franklin Park and Northlake are among seven near west suburban communities using grant funding from Cook County to redevelop “brownfield” locations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presented Cook County with a $600,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant in 2014, according to a news release. Those funds are being distributed among seven Cook County municipalities: Franklin Park, Bellwood, Forest Park, Melrose Park, Maywood, Northlake, and Schiller Park.

According to a fact sheet on the 2014 grant, a brownfield is an area in which “the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse … may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”

“Eradicating contaminants on brownfield sites will increase the fiscal stability of our communities by allowing vacant properties to again contribute to the tax base,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle stated in a news release. “It will also help improve the health of residents who suffer from problems, such as asthma.”

According to information provided by Cook County, brownfield locations can include areas such as abandoned factories and gas stations.

“The grant pays for a plan of action that tells developers what they need to. So for instance, encapsulate an area with a parking lot or dig out 22 cubic yards of dirt. With this plan already paid for, developers can then just call someone up to start doing it,” said John P. Schneider, Franklin Park’s director of community development.

The grant covers cost of the study and planning phases of a site’s remediation.

“So when we talk to developers who are interested in our village’s land, we can show them that the land is clean or not clean, and the extent of the remediation that might be needed,” said Eric Richard, a Franklin Park village planner. “It lowers their risk going in and saves them money … and a lender who will finance a developer will want to see this type of assessment anyways, so it’s an incentive for developers.”

The seven Cook County municipalities benefiting from the grant have at least 87 vacant, abandoned, or underused sites have been identified by the Center for Neighborhood Technology in these seven communities, according to a release. Additionally, the Illinois State Fire Marshall has identified 684 petroleum-related underground storage tank locations in these seven communities, according to information provided by Cook County.

Franklin Park’s planning department lists the following seven village-owned sites as either currently having or will have environmental assessments made regarding the village’s brownfield status: 2504 Rose St., which was formerly an abandoned multifamily building; 3010 Mannheim Road, which was formerly a Super 8 Motel site and also contains vacant land; 9545 Belmont Ave., the village’s former police station; 9621 Pacific Ave., the former Leyden News Agency building, and vacant land at 10500 Grand Ave., 10424 Grand Ave., and 3300 River Road.

“I think we’re going to have some good success stories using this grant funding in the village,” said Schneider.

Alex V. Hernandez is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.