Mayor Emanuel Announces Next Steps to Transform Fisk Coal Plant Site into Community Asset

January 18, 2015

NRG Energy, CTA to enter into a MOU to explore development of CTA facility and open space

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Alderman Danny Solis and leaders of the Fisk and Crawford Reuse Task Force to announce today that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and NRG Energy have entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to explore potential redevelopment of the Fisk coal plant site into a CTA bus garage and maintenance facility. Significant sections of the Fisk site would also be set aside as open space and a park for use by the community, and the site will be better connected to the Chicago River.

“After working with community groups to shut down the last two coal plants in Chicago, we’ve made real progress in finding options to redevelop these sites in a way that creates both jobs and healthier neighborhoods,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This MOU will continue our effort to redevelop these sites to provide opportunities for local residents to live, work and play in a healthy environment.”

Working closely with the Mayor’s office, NRG and the CTA will begin exploring technical details on the construction of a bus garage and maintenance facility on the site of the Fisk coal plant. The proposed facility would incorporate state-of-the-art clean energy systems and would employ more than 400 full-time employees.

Based on preliminary estimates, a bus facility at the Fisk site could save the CTA around $2 million annually in fuel and operational costs by reducing the distance between the garage and the start of bus routes served by the garage.

“We are pleased to partner with Mayor Emanuel and NRG in exploring this development opportunity, which could ultimately improve the quality of service we deliver to customers while lowering costs for the agency,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool.

In addition to the potential creation of a new CTA facility, significant sections of the Fisk site would be set aside as open space and developed into a park along the Chicago River.

“Building a state-of-the-art CTA facility that incorporates renewable energy and open space supports NRG’s focus on a clean energy future,” said NRG’s East Region President Lee Davis. “We’re very pleased to be working with these excellent partners—the CTA, Mayor Emanuel, Alderman Solis, PERRO, Pilsen Alliance, LVEJO, Delta Institute, and ComEd—to create a model for the nation on sustainable redevelopment of former coal plant sites.”

"Removing these power plants was the first step in a process that is now moving forward,” said Alderman Solis. “I am eager to bring this community to a place where our residents can enjoy a higher quality of life and better-paying jobs."

Community groups have been leading the effort to not only close the coal plants, but through the Mayor’s Fisk and Crawford Reuse Task Force, they have developed guiding principles for redevelopment of the two coal plant sites.

“Our community must be proud to be transforming a site of hazards and discord into one of unity and justice,” said Nelson Soza, executive director of Pilsen Alliance. “A new huge task is commencing, and the community will be at the table from the start.”

“After Fisk closed, PERRO organized to learn the Pilsen community's vision for the site of the coal plant that had plagued us for years,” said Victoria Thurmond, spokesperson for the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization. “Community priorities were clean, sustainable jobs, community green space, and access to the river.  This announcement is an encouraging step in the Task Force dialogue, and PERRO will continue to work with Pilsen neighbors, NRG, CTA, and the Task Force to make sure development fits with the community's needs.”  

“For so long the Fisk plant was a source of environmental injustices in Pilsen.  Through a strong community process, there is now a tremendous opportunity to transform the site and meet the needs for living wage jobs and access to open space in Pilsen,” said Antonio Lopez, executive director of Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.  “We also look forward to next steps on redevelopment of the Crawford plant that will transform the site into a productive community asset for Little Village.”

As the facilitator of the Task Force, Delta Institute worked with Task Force members to solicit public input, facilitate stakeholder dialogue, and bring technical information to assist in finding solutions to revitalize this site and benefit community residents.

“Coal plant redevelopment is a difficult process that often takes decades to achieve,” said Delta Institute CEO Jean Pogge. “Today’s exciting announcement – just a couple years after plant closure - is a testament to the hard work and continued efforts of the Task Force, and it’s great example of how important it is to bring all the key decision makers and stakeholders to the table, especially the communities that are most affected, economically and environmentally, by the coal plant closure and reuse plans.”

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