City seeks to buy Mayfair Lumber site
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
The City of Chicago has expressed interest in purchasing the Mayfair Lumber site, 4825 W. Lawrence Ave., and the Leprecan Portable Restrooms site, 4808 W. Wilson Ave., to consolidate operations of the Department of Water Management, the Mayfair Sanitation facility and the Department of Fleet and Facility Services to a centralized location on the Northwest Side.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced an ordinance at the City Council meeting on June 26 that would authorize the city to enter into negotiations to purchase the two properties. The ordinance was referred to the Committee on Housing and Real Estate.
The Department of Water Management facility at 4900 W. Sunnyside Ave., which also is used by Fleet and Facility Services, would be closed.
Alderman John Arena (45th) said that if the purchase is approved, the gas station that is used by city vehicles at the Sunnyside site would remain because it is too expensive to move it. The Mayfair Sanitation facility, 4639 N. Lamon Ave., also would be moved to the new site to the north across the railroad tracks.
Area residents have complained about city workers who report to the facilities parking their cars on side streets.
“The water department identified the sites as valuable in order to consolidate some of the operations on Sunnyside, and streets and sanitation have their space at Lamon and Wilson consolidated as well,” Arena said.
The ordinance states that the city has the funding needed to acquire the properties. The ordinance contains a clause that states that if the city cannot come to terms with the property owners, the law department will be authorized to institute eminent domain proceedings.
Arena said that this is just the beginning step in a journey that could be a “game changer for the Northwest Side.”
“It basically gives the city the authority to enter into negotiations with the two owners,” Arena said. “It’s a real opportunity to find the most land use. That area is sandwiched away from the residential community. It has some development challenges, but this is a way to start a conversation. It’s an ideal site for our purposes.”
Arena said that the owners have expressed interest in selling the properties.
Arena said that his biggest concern would be traffic on Lawrence Avenue, which is north of the Mayfair Pumping Station, 4850 W. Wilson Ave., and the sanitation facility. He said that there are two viaducts in the area and that he would like the city Department of Transportation to determine if traffic signals and other improvements are possible there.
Arena said that when the Mayfair Lumber site went up for sale after the company closed in 2011, conversations began about purchasing that site for city use. He said that when city began its grid garbage collection system last year, workers from several ward sanitation facilities began meeting at the centralized location on Lamon Avenue.
In the past, garbage collection workers reported to a sanitation office in each ward and either were either picked up or drove themselves to the start of their route. Under the new system, workers report to the facility on Lamon, where 40 trucks that serve all or parts of the 30th, 33rd, 35th, 38th, 39th, 40th, 41st and 45th wards are based.
“It’s a matter of unifying everything,” Arena said. “Before we had 40 trucks there that would go out and get workers, and now we’ve got 40 drivers and about 125 workers that meet up there.”
“At that point, we took some steps as a city to compromise and we relocated the salt piles to a site in the 38th Ward in order to make some room for the Streets and Sanitation operations,” Arena said.
However, Arena said that that proved not to be efficient because empty trucks would have to be driven to the 38th Ward facility, which is east of Oak Park Avenue, between Forest Preserve Drive and Irving Park Road. He said that if the city buys the properties, the salt piles could be moved to the new site to increase efficiency.
Arena said last year that residents who live near the storage yard have complained about an increase in odor that results from garbage being left in trucks, but the city’s policy has been to dump the garbage after crews arrive at 8 p.m.
Arena called the process positive and said that if the city can purchase the two parcels it would be a great asset for the Northwest Side.
“It would be a great chance for us to increase efficiency and create a better quality of life for the residents that live near by,” Arena said.
“The Mayfair Pumping Station would probably use the old sanitation yard because they are planning to move away from steam to other power sources and they would probably need to build a new building behind it,” Arena said.
Arena said that it was too early in the process to determine how the water department site would be used, but he said that he would welcome some sort of a green space project such as a park in that area.
The family-owned Mayfair Lumber started phasing out its operations in 2011 after operating on a 6-acre site on Lawrence Avenue for 82 years. Mayfair Lumber was among many lumber yards that have closed in recent years due to the decline in new construction.
The site contains a saw mill and a staining shed which was built in the late 1950s. At its peak, Mayfair had about 50 employees and a dozen delivery trucks, and until 2010, train cars of lumber would enter the yard from a spur off a Union Pacific Railroad line which runs along the east side of the property.
The site, which is adjacent to a Metra railroad line, has 400 feet of frontage on Lawrence and is zoned M1-1 for manufacturing uses. The triangular parcel narrows as it approaches Wilson Avenue to the south.
A portable toilet storage yard which was once used by the former Miller Brothers Lumber is at the south end of the site, north of the pumping station.
About 7 years ago Concord Homes built a complex consisting of rowhouses and single-family homes on a former industrial site on the other side of the tracks west of the Mayfair yard.