Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=220502
Story Retrieval Date: 4/24/2014 1:16:47 PM CST
Rachel E. Gross/MEDILL
The transformation of a former troubled nursing home into an apartment complex that some community leaders are hoping will revitalize this stretch of North Side has stalled due to alleged asbestos contamination.
Until last week, construction workers and the sound of jackhammers on the corner of Argyle Street and North Sheridan Road foretold a renovated apartment building ringed with commercial spaces. The towering brick edifice with a swooping façade was meant to be a “linchpin for the revitalization of Sheridan Road,” said Joseph Trendl, president of the Carmen-Winona Block Club.
But earlier this month, a City of Chicago inspector documented workers removing asbestos without proper attire and wearing only paper respirators. Last week, Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a complaint against the building’s owners and announced that construction would halt.
Air pollution, endangering the environment, and improper handling of asbestos are among the eight counts of EPA violations building owners face, said a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office.
The building, originally a 1920s hotel, is currently owned by Zidan Management Group, Inc. Zidan and the other two defendants in the case—Dubai, Inc. and Somerset Place Realty, LLC—are to appear in court for a status hearing on May 21. Zidan did not return calls for comment.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber often found in old building materials—floor tile, drywall mud, window caulking, boiler insulation—that travels by air, said Ron Robeen, who manages the Illinois EPA’s asbestos unit. Too small to be seen, asbestos fibers can enter the lungs, where they cause plaque and cancer.
“There’s asbestos in the air that we breathe every day,” Robeen said. “But you wouldn’t want to be next to a building covered in asbestos.”
On Wednesday, Somerset Place at 5009 Sheridan Rd. stood vacant with boarded windows. “Danger: Asbestos. Cancer and Lung Disease Hazard,” read a sign duct-taped to the inside of the glass doors.
When told about the accusations of improper removal, some residents expressed concern.
“We don’t want that,” said resident Jason Hendrix, 49, who passes the building every day on his way to work. “Especially when there’s an elementary school one block away.”
But others, like Kenny Greenwald, who lives across the street, shrugged.
“It don’t concern me,” said Greenwald, smoking a cigarette and leaning against the wall of Somerset Place. “As long as they keep it inside, I’m happy.”