Seaway Supply Company owner Tom Engoren inside of his Maywood-based company on July 13. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, along with numerous other elected officials, were at Seaway to announce the results of a brownfield grant. | Michael Romain/VFP
Thursday, July 13, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Tom Engoren, the owner of Seaway Supply Co., located at 15 N. 9th Ave. in Maywood, said that a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has allowed his business to stay, and possibly expand, in Maywood.
Seaway Supply, which deliveries janitorial products, office supplies and other materials throughout the Chicago area, is looking to acquire a gravel parcel adjacent its Maywood location that’s currently owned by the village.
The company wants to turn the parcel into a fenced-in parking lot and eventually use the land to possibly develop even more warehouse or office space in the future. Seaway has been located in Maywood for around six years, Engoren said.
But the village-owned land is located on a brownfield, which is “property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the
presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant,” according to the U.S. EPA.
The contamination is often petroleum-related. Examples of brownfield sites include “old gas stations, auto service businesses, factories, mill sites, shipyards, transit stations, and junkyards,” the EPA notes.
Typically, a business looking to build, expand or redevelop an area that’s suspected to be contaminated has to pay to conduct soil tests and, if those tests find that the area has been polluted or contaminated, then the business also has to pay for the necessary cleanup.
An official with Weaver Consultants Group, the firm that Cook County contracted with to provide environmental testing and remediation services, said that it can cost between $3,000 and $5,000 to conduct phase one soil testing. Phase two cleanup efforts start at around $15,000 to $20,000.
The EPA grant — which was administered by the Cook County Department of Environmental Control in collaboration with the villages of Maywood, Bellwood, Melrose Park, Forest Park, Schiller Park, Northlake and Franklin Park — basically pays for those phase one and phase two costs. The county received the grant money in 2014.
“These tests, while they’re not terribly expensive, they’re not cheap,” said Engoren. “Even before you buy the [land], you have to invest money to just look at it and consider it. This program takes the guesswork out of the process for potential buyers.”
Engoren added that completing the environmental remediation process also clears a big hurdle for businesses trying to access the necessary credit to fund expansion and redevelopment efforts. As of press time, it wasn’t known how the land that Seaway is trying to acquire got contaminated. Seaway is located in an area zoned for industrial and manufacturing uses.
According to estimates by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, there are nearly 90 brownfield parcels located in western Cook County. And the Illinois State Fire Marshall has counted 684 petroleum-related Underground Storage Tank (UST) locations in the seven municipalities participating in the grant program.
The CNT estimates that there are 17 brownfield parcels in Maywood alone that cover nearly 50 acres, six brownfield parcels in Bellwood covering 17 acres and nine brownfield parcels in Melrose Park covering nearly 50 acres.
Maywood brownfield sites targeted by EPA grant
Bellwod and Melrose Park brownfield sites targeted by EPA grant
“This program is truly an economic development driver,” said Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins during a July 13 press conference convened at Seaway Supply to mark the completion of the grant program.
“This program allowed Maywood to receive funding for environmental assessments that will lead to redevelopment of several vacant lots that had not hope for redevelopment.”
In all, the grant program identified and assessed 30 sites in the seven aforementioned coalition communities that cover 127 acres. Currently, more than 120 acres are in the process of redevelopment or are being planned for future reuse, according to a statement released by Cook County Board President on June 13.
“Brownfield sites are difficult to redevelop,” Preckwinkle said at the June 13 press conference. “By freeing up these sites for reinvestment, we not only protect the environment but we reduce eyesores for these communities.”
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins and other elected officials inside of Seaway Supply Co. on June 13. | Michael Romain/VFP
In addition to Seaway Supply Company, other sites that were tested and/or cleaned up include the former Maywood Racetrack in Melrose Park, six parcels that sit on over five acres in Bellwood and several more parcels in Maywood that cover nearly four acres.
“I can think of no better place for this to happen than in the village of Maywood,” said Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st), whose district includes Maywood and Bellwood.
“Maywood has had significant challenges relating to unemployment and businesses leaving … This is a shot in the arm for businesses that want to expand, want jobs and want to work here. It’s good for our tax base, it’s good for everybody.” VFP
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