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Contaminated South Peoria Brownfield Slated For Cleanup, Redevelopment

Remediation of a contaminated brownfield site will start soon in South Peoria.
The former Tabor property in the 3500-3600 block of SW Adams was once a junkyard, gas station, and rail storage yard.

In addition to a now-demolished Quonset hut used to store thousands of worn-out tires, the property was also littered with junked automobiles, old demolition debris, and chemicals seeped into the soil.

EPA Regional Administrator Kurt Thiede toured the site Thursday. He said a $500,000 grant announced in May will open up the property to new possibilities.

"So when you have that manufacturing sector, when you have that natural beauty, we've seen time and time again that those can be leverages for things like making this site and Peoria successful in further redevelopment," Thiede said.

The contract between the EPA and the City of Peoria is set to close in the next couple months. Soil remediation may take two to three years before the land is ready for redevelopment.

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Credit Tim Shelley / WCBU
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Tim Shelley / WCBU
The former Tabor property sits at 3540-3600 SW Adams in South Peoria.

Much of the property is now overgrown with grass and weeds. Once the soil is remediated, much of the land will be paved over. The city hopes to obtain a Rebuild Illinois state grant to restore an old cement block building on the property, which is still structurally sound.

First District Councilwoman Denise Moore said the investment is badly needed for the far South Side.

"This is an area that's been disinvested and neglected for decades. Not just a few years, but decades," Moore said. "And this is a big white elephant, that I'm glad we were able to secure a grant to start cleaning up the property."

Moore said previous interest in the property was quickly disspelled when potential buyers found out about the contaminants in the soil.

The City of Peoria purchased the property from the previous owner in 2013 and cleaned up the surface-level mess, but removing and replacing the contaminated soil underground is an expensive effort.

At-Large Councilman Sid Ruckriegel said the cleanup couldn't happen without cooperation among several agencies at different levels of government. In addition to improving the health and safety of the neighborhood, Ruckriegel said the restored parcel can also serve as an incubator for additional growth.

"We're close to all transportation sources. We've got 474 really close by. We've got rail, we've got a main thoroughfare, a corridor into the city. And all of those factors lead to this being a viable property to want to put back on the tax rolls," Ruckriegel said.

Moore said those logistics mean the property could be used for anything from manufacturing to retail.

"The potential is vast. And once it's cleaned up, we can start marketing to those industries," she said.

Thiede said Kings Mills, Ohio used a brownfield grant to transform a former ammunition factory into a hotel and event space.

"The sky's the limit. And I think no matter where civic leaders look throughout the Midwest, there's  awesome examples of where you've been able to utilize old properties, and bring them back into productive use, whether it be for manufacturing, light industrial, industrial, residential, or just the small business sector," Thiede said.

Under the terms of future sale, the city isn't necessarily obligated to sell the rehabilitated land to the highest bidder.

"It's not going to have to be sold to the person with the highest dollar value, but what can have the greatest impact," said Ruckriegel. "And I think that will definitely be looked at as we look at the intended owners and uses of this property."

Assistant Community Development Director Joe Dulin said a successful remediation on the land may lead to more like it down the road.

"This is the catalyst project for this area that can drive it and show the EPA that we're serious about this project, that we're serious about the work in Peoria," Dulin said. "So when future funding opportunities come, we'll apply, and hopefully can get those other issues cleaned up, as well."

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.