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Community groups support West Chicago EPA cleanup grant application

Published: Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 1:48 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 2:57 a.m. CDT

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WEST CHICAGO – The city of West Chicago has received several letters of support from local community groups regarding its application for two $200,000 grants to help with the environmental cleanup of a key redevelopment site near downtown.

"We're pretty pleased about that," said John Said, West Chicago's community development director.

The grants would be for two parcels of land that are part of the West Washington Street Redevelopment Project area north of West Washington Street and west of Fremont Street.

Potential plans for the land include a new city hall, a town square or village green outdoor space, commercial and residential developments, and parking areas. While conceptual in nature, the plans have been discussed for several years.

The properties are polluted with various contaminants because of their history as a rail and coach yard with adjoining factories, lumberyard and waterworks, and a scrap iron and steel salvage yard.

As part of the application process for the grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the city is expected to engage the community, which led officials to host public meetings Jan. 7 and 14 to discuss the application and gather feedback.

Groups that have submitted letters of support to the city include the DuPage County Health Department, the Western DuPage Chamber of Commerce, the Wayne and Helen Fox Community Center, the West Chicago Park District, People Made Visible and the Prestonfield Homeowners Association.

"That represents to me a very cooperative environment in the community," Said said.

Nonprofit organization People Made Visible, which operates Gallery 200 and hosts projects and events downtown, provided a letter of support because its leaders are eager to see West Chicago take steps to bring more people downtown.

"As a community foundation, we really want to see more downtown development done," said Sara Phalen, president of the People Made Visible Board of Directors.

If the West Washington Street area were to be redeveloped, that could provide more open outdoor space for art displays, community gardens or markets, Phalen said.

West Chicago also received a supportive letter from DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin and a message from Lauren Nowak, who represents District Six on the County Board.

All the letters will be included as part of the application, which is due Jan. 22.

The EPA is expected to award 61 cleanup grants nationwide. Recipients are typically announced in May, but because the process was delayed by the 2013 government shutdown, Said expects to find out this summer if West Chicago will receive one or more grants.

The draft application is available on the city's website, www.westchicago.org and in-person at the West Chicago Public Library, 118 W. Washington St., or West Chicago City Hall, 475 Main St.

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