PILSEN — The city is teaming up with the owners of a shuttered coal power plant to explore the possibility of building an eco-friendly CTA bus garage and public park at the former pollution-spewing site.
The CTA and NRG Energy will work together to "explore technical details" of the proposal, which would include a new bus garage and maintenance facility, according to a news release from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.
"We're really at the starting line on this thing in terms of how big and what it's going to look like," said CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase.
Chase said a bus garage there could save the CTA about $2 million annually in fuel and other costs because it would reduce the number of "deadhead miles," the distance between a garage and the start of a bus routes.
The CTA hasn't released many details on the plan, but has said the proposed facility would incorporate high-tech clean energy systems. About 400 employees would work there, the city said.
Also included in the proposal is a plan to create some sort of public park space at the site, which sits on the bank of the Chicago River's South Branch. A public park at the site would complement the plans for a privately run heliport that's getting built just up the river at nearby 24th and Halsted Streets.
The Fisk plant at 1111 W. Cermak Road was shut down in August 2012 after a long fight between community activists and the power plant's operators, Midwest Generation. The site served as the backdrop for an Emanuel campaign ad in which the mayor takes some credit for helping close it down.
NRG, the New Jersey-based power giant that bought the bankrupt Midwest Generation last year, is working with the community to redevelop the site, which contains the shuttered coal plant and four large combustion turbines called "peakers" that are activated during peak usage.
Company spokesman David Gaier said the agreement between NRG and the CTA includes two groups, one that will come up with a design for the site and another that will work out financing for the deal. A cost estimate for the project hasn't been determined, nor has a timeline for its completion.
"That's what this agreement was established to develop," he said.
Nelson Soza leads the grassroots Pilsen Alliance, one of the groups that helped shed light on the health complications experienced by residents in Pilsen and Little Village, the site of another shuttered coal plant.
He said the community is happy with the concept of "transforming a place of hazards and discord in the community and potentially transforming it into something to unite the community and provide opportunities.
"It's really exciting to have seen this process from the time when we were fighting the power company, and then see it through the closing and now to the aspirational planning," he said.
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