Two properties on the 7200 block of Circle Avenue were determined to have no environmental liabilities, Cook County officials said July 12. 

The so-called “brownsites,” formerly Kevil’s Restaurant and Culligan Water Conditioning, were part of a seven-town U.S. EPA-funded grant program to redevelop old industrial sites. The Cook County Department of Environmental Control secured a $600,000 grant in 2014 to “assess vacant, abandoned, and underutilized” sites in seven western suburbs, including Forest Park, Bellwood, Maywood and Melrose Park. 

“Our goal is really to do assessments, to get information to remove any uncertainty if there are any contaminants,” said Deborah Stone, director of the Cook County Department of Environmental Control. “Really it’s a benefit for the community in terms of health and safety.” 

Potential environmental contamination can slow redevelopment and the grant program is designed to help that process along and identify any problems that must be addressed. 

The two sites went through a $10,000 Phase One assessment in 2016, said Kevin Schnoes, deputy director of the department, including records research and a site walk-through. Nothing hazardous was found.

“That’s good news,” Schnoes said. 

A more substantial Phase Two assessment will not be performed, given the first round results. 

Forest Park Village Administrator Tim Gillian said the village participated in the grant program to help the redevelopment process at the two sites. The assessments were less about suspected environmental hazards, Gillian said, and more about just helping along development. 

“The property owners on Circle were thankful we put them in touch with those folks,” Gillian said. “If that helps to start some development on those sites, then obviously that’s good for everybody. That’s why we participated in the first place.”

According to estimates by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), there are nearly 90 brownfield parcels located in western Cook County. And the Illinois State Fire Marshall has counted 684 petroleum-related Underground Storage Tank (UST) locations in the seven municipalities.

The CNT estimates that there are 20 brownfield parcels in Forest Park that cover roughly 60 acres.

In total, the grant program identified and assessed 30 sites in the seven coalition communities that cover 127 acres. Currently, more than 120 acres are in the process of redevelopment or are being planned for future reuse, according to a statement released by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on June 13.

“Brownfield sites are difficult to redevelop,” Preckwinkle said at a June 13 press conference. “By freeing up these sites for reinvestment, we not only protect the environment but we reduce eyesores for these communities.”

Forest Park Director of Public Health and Safety Steve Glinke said his department had no archival records of the two sites, apart from a new roof construction permit from the 1970s. 

Jerry Jacknow, a local realtor and self-described local historian who is from Forest Park, said Kevil’s has been a restaurant and bar for at least a half century, although the spot has gone through several name changes. Likewise, Culligan’s, and the adjacent Circle Lanes bowling alley, have been there for about as long. 

“I used to set pins at Circle when it was still manual,” said Jacknow, who grew up just down the block. 

The only industrial nearby site Jacknow recalled was a warehouse for an electrical contractor to the east of Kevil’s close to where the CVS on Harlem Avenue currently sits.