Joliet mayor says U.S. Steel ‘dragging feet’ on shuttered mill
By Bob Okon email@example.com January 9, 2013 5:08PM
Joliet mayor Thomas Giarrante looks out over Collins Street from in front of the former U.S. Steel plant office building on Collins Road Friday March 30, 2012. The city hopes to be able to get the site redeveloped. If redevelopment happens, the office building would remain because it is on the National Register of Historic Places. | File photo
Updated: February 11, 2013 7:25AM
Joliet Mayor Thomas Giarrante said U.S. Steel still is “dragging their feet” on cleanup of the Joliet mill site.
Partial redevelopment, however, could start in as soon as a year if the company makes expected progress on cleanup efforts, one state environmental official said.
Giarrante made redevelopment of the 54-acre steel mill property on Collins Street one of the goals of his administration when he was running for mayor in 2011. The city has a consultant’s study to aid the redevelopment effort.
The city even has an interested developer, Giarrante said.
“We have people interested in the U.S. Steel site,” he said. “U.S. Steel is dragging their feet.”
City officials have been frustrated for years in their efforts to get U.S. Steel cooperation in redevelopment of the shuttered mill property, which now is the site of decaying buildings.
But the company has made progress in the past year, said Joyce Munie, a manager for remediation projects for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
Munie said U.S. Steel has done enough investigation on the site in 2012 to determine that the land right along Collins Street is uncontaminated. That means the site could accommodate a strip center as long as development does not go too deep into the property.
“If there’s someone who wants to use the property, it’s conceivable that in a year there could be some redevelopment,” Munie said. “I can’t say how much.”
A big development on the site is not possible because U.S. Steel still must determine the levels of contamination on the remainder of the property, Munie said. And, it’s the area off of Collins Street, where the steel mills operated, that is likely to be most contaminated.
Still, Giarrante has been heartened by the IEPA’s report that some development is possible.
“That’s a start,” he said, adding that a hardware store or some other retail would be welcomed in the area. “That’s what we’re hoping for.”
But Giarrante said he has not received any response from U.S. Steel as to whether the company foresees the possibility of making land available for redevelopment by 2014.
He also wants the company to begin tearing down some of the dilapidated buildings on the site.
One man was badly injured when he fell through a roof while he and others were trespassing on the site in September 2011.
“All they (U.S. Steel) have done,” Giarrante said, “is they fenced it off, and they have a guard out there.”
U.S. Steel emailed a statement in response to questions about the Joliet site, saying, “We continue to have ongoing discussions with the IEPA regarding remediation of the property. We remain committed to working with IEPA to accomplish this goal.”