SOUTH LOOP — The developer who plans a new neighborhood along a massive piece of undeveloped South Loop riverfront invites neighbors to help clean the site up Saturday, hoping food trucks and a DJ will sweeten the offer.
About 40 employees of Related Midwest will participate in the citywide Chicago River Day from 9 a.m.-noon Saturday at 1600 S. Wentworth Ave., or the northeast corner of picturesque Ping Tom Park. A DJ will accompany the cleanup while food trucks from The Fat Shallot and Yum Dum will roll up at 11 a.m.
Related Midwest took control of the site, a 62-acre property starting just south of Clark Street and Roosevelt Road, last year with plans to build a new Downtown neighborhood. Disgraced developer and political fixer Antoin "Tony" Rezko once received city approval to build as many as 4,500 homes on the site.
Related Midwest bills the cleanup as the first time the property will be open to the public since it took control of the site last year. The developer has yet specify its plans for the site, but it promises a multi-billion effort including a half-mile of "revitalized riverfront" in what will be one of the biggest private real estate projects in the city's history.
Rezko never built his planned development, and sold the site in 2005 to a foreign investor who left the property vacant during the ensuing recession. Related Midwest acquired the property after Mayor Rahm Emanuel threatened to seize it through the city's powers of eminent domain.
The property is the largest tract of undeveloped land Downtown, and a makeshift "tent city" started forming there last year as homeless people got displaced by developments in other areas.
Related Midwest has yet to formally present its plans for the site to the city, but Related Midwest President Curt Bailey will speak to the developer's commitment to restoring its stretch of riverfront at the cleanup.
Chicago River Day, led by Friends of the Chicago River, is celebrating its 25th anniversary Saturday. More than 2,000 volunteers are expected to help clean 60 riverfront sites throughout the city during the event.