Chicago Kroc Center gains national recognition

by Felicia Horton

August 2013

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The Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Chicago has been awarded three National Phoenix Awards for changing a brownfield site to a residential standard in a much needed community. Phoenix Award winners represent outstanding brownfield or environmental projects from each of the 10 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regions.

"That field was a pile of rubble and overgrown weeds," said Renee Nixon Taylor, a longtime resident of the West Pullman area. "We would only pass through it to get from our neighborhood to the bus. I always prayed that God would bring something for our kids and get rid of that ugly field."

The new Kroc Center is the answer to Ms. Taylor's prayer. What was once a brownfield (land previously used for industrial purposes) and contaminated site is now a state-of-the-art community center.

The Chicago Kroc Center project redeemed a contaminated piece of property to a residential standard at a great cost savings. The original budget for the City of Chicago was $21 million just to clean the PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyl) and contaminants from the site being considered by The Salvation Army. When the Kroc team got together, under the guidance of the site owner's representatives International Facilities Group, a plan was drawn up to remove the PCBs from the site and bury the oil based contaminants. A 30-foot hole would be dug in which to bury the contaminated soil deeply under the parking lot, tennis courts and outdoor basketball court, and the clean clay/soil from that hole was used as the new top soil and engineered barrier. The cost to clean up the site plummeted to $4 million. The City of Chicago had never seen a project do more for less money. There are also very few projects willing to take a brownfield and bring it up to residential standards where kids can run and plan.

Zach Clayton, environmental engineer III for the City of Chicago, was the city's lead engineer on the project and was present in Atlanta for the Phoenix Awards. "The Salvation Army Kroc Center project stole the show," he said. "We were awarded with the 2011 USEPA Region 5 award, the 2011 People's Choice Award and the 2011 National grand prize award."

Created in 1997 this prestigious award honors individuals and groups working to solve critical environmental or social challenges, transforming blighted and contaminated areas into productive new uses and sustainable development projects. The Phoenix Awards are widely recognized as the outstanding award for achievement of excellence in brownfield redevelopment.

"The Phoenix Awards panel, consisting of environmental professionals and business and government leaders, recognized The Salvation Army for redeeming this plot of land," said Major David Harvey, senior Kroc Center officer. "The Salvation Army Kroc Center is honored to play such an active role in the revitalization of Chicago's South Side and the West Pullman and Roseland neighborhoods in particular."

The Chicago Kroc Center celebrated its one year anniversary this summer. 


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