CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago preservation group is struggling to find a developer to save a historical coal-fired power plant the owner says is deteriorating and presents safety concerns.
Preservation Chicago is making its last attempt to prevent the demolition of Union Station Power House, which sits along the Illinois River in the South Loop. The power plant was built in the 1930s to supply the massive amount of energy needed to run Union Station and its surrounding infrastructure. The Amtrak-owned plant closed in 2011 when that power was no longer needed.
"We're still hoping to find a developer that can reuse it and to get the city involved," said Ward Miller, who heads the preservation group. "We want more opportunity to have (the public's) voices to be heard and determine if there is a way to avoid demolition."
Miller told the Chicago Sun-Times this week that the power house is an example of the city's industrial roots and a monument to its history as a transporter of people and freight.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said that although the company hasn't made its final decision on what to do with the building, the structure is deteriorating rather quickly and has safety issues.
He noted that Amtrak has made significant progress in planning for the demolition, but because preservationists have expressed an interest to reusing the structure, the company is open to preservation proposals, though there have been none.
"Despite considerable effort by Amtrak and our consultant — including multiple extensions of the deadline — no proposals were received," Magliari said.
Last year, Amtrak unsuccessfully solicited proposals for how the structure should be reused.
Miller acknowledged the project's difficulty. But he's hopeful that someone with the ambition and a creative set of eyes might find interesting ways to repurpose some of the building's industrial elements.
"We understand this undertaking is a Herculean task," Miller said.
Preservation Chicago worked with other groups to revitalize the old Cook County Hospital, Old Main Post Office and, with the cooperation of Amtrak, improvements to Union Station.
"This could be another great example," Miller said. "We only have a handful of these old railroad buildings left."
Information from: Chicago Sun-Times, http://chicago.suntimes.com/