On July 11, the Commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) began steps to extend the leases of Monarch Asphalt Company and its sister company, Oakton-McCormick LLC, on MWRD land east of the North Shore Channel from Oakton Street nearly to the CTA tracks.

“The decision hasn’t been made yet. What we did was give authority to our staff to begin the leasing process,” MWRD Commissioner Debra Shore told the RoundTable. She said the matter would be discussed at future MWRD board meetings, which are generally open to the public.

Granting these leases would entail a waiver of MWRD’s North Shore Channel Resolution, passed in 2003, that requires that “all District land located along the North Shore Channel between Devon Avenue and Wilmette Harbor be leased only for green space and public recreational use,” according to a July 11 letter to MWRD Executive Director David St. Pierre from Mariyana Spyropoulos, chair of the Committee on Real Estate Development.

Ms. Spyropoulos’s letter also stated that Skokie Park District had indicated that it might be interested in developing the site for recreation purposes after the expiration of the original Monarch and Oakton-
McCormick leases but was not in a
position to do so at this time.

Ms. Shore told the RoundTable, “I do believe at some point the parcel will be remediated and become part of the natural area along the channel. However, in the meantime, since the Skokie Park District
did not indicate that it could develop the site as park land, I think the people of Cook
County will benefit from the added reve-nues. The plant has been there quite a while.”

MWRD Commissioners did not waive the 2003 Resolution in the case of the lease of the property to Shore School, 2525 Church St. in Evanston. MWRD has given the school, which has leased the property since 1983, until 2016 to vacate the property.

Monarch and Oakton-McCormick LLC, both owned by Orange Crush LLC, rented parcels along the east side of the canal south of Oakton Street. Monarch’s 60-year lease of 1.99 acres expired in 2010; and Oakton-McCormick’s 10-year lease of 2.52 acres expired the same year. Monarch holds a permit to “perform environmental remediation and to vacate these sites,” according to the letter. The fee for the permit, which expires at the end of this year, is $216,000 per year. Remediation, partially complete, would continue through the life of the new lease.

The property is in Skokie but it is much closer to commercial, recreation and residential sites in Evanston. Nonetheless, Evanston City officials were not notified of the likelihood that there would be continued industrial use of the land there. MWRD Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Officer Allison Fore said in an email to the RoundTable, “Since the parcel is located in Skokie, District staff only contacted the Village of Skokie regarding its future use.” Ms. Shore said, “I think MWRD could do a better job of reaching out to and engaging all neighbors.” She added, though, “We are changing.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...