An industrial relic and longtime thorn in the side of neighborhood activists, whose decade-long campaign finally got it closed in 2012, the Fisk power plant may be getting a second life thanks in part to the CTA. The transit authority signed an agreement with owner NRG Energy to begin exploring redevelopment options on the site, particularly the idea of creating a new bus garage and maintenance facility as well as a nature walk near the Chicago River. This is in addition to its role as a Rahm campaign prop.
According to CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase, the 60-acre site's central location and large indoor space for bus parking makes it attractive to the agency, which is in the midst of a modernization program (a current garage on 77th was initially built to handle streetcars). The central location would add operational efficiencies to numerous routes and save an estimated $2M per year by reducing what the CTA calls "deadhead miles," the distance a driver travels before starting their route.
Considering the plant's legacy as a symbol of environmental injustice, the announcement from the city suggested any site would probably use clean energy, such as solar, for minimal environmental effect, or as minimal as you can expect from a bus garage. This is still early days, however, as the memorandum of understanding only kicks off the process of evaluating and analyzing the site, which has plenty of other issues, such as asbestos removal, that need to be solved before renovation can begin.
Community leaders expect to be part of the process of shaping the development, which supposedly will bring 400 jobs to the neighborhood. While it's positive to see a former power plant on its way to becoming a more valuable part of the community, we're just a little bummed to hear that some of the other ideas previously proposed for the site may not come to pass, especially the vertical garden designed by Jeanne Gang.