'It's a milestone': Site remediation a key step in development of gateway park in Antioch
A lofty plan to create a gateway community gathering place in downtown Antioch has begun to take shape.
Removal of contaminated soil from a prominent vacant property east of Main Street between Orchard and Depot streets is the first visible evidence of a plan to reclaim the 3.5-acre site for public use.
Environmental cleanup and remediation began last week. The area for generations had been in commercial use, including as an auto sales and repair business.
"Believe me, it's a milestone," Mayor Scott Gartner said. A design approved by the village board early this year calls for a pavilion, lawn amphitheater, playground, water feature, concession building with seating, a gateway plaza, pedestrian walks and more.
The park is planned as a downtown anchor, driver of economic development and community hub.
A focal point involves unearthing and improving a section of Sequoit Creek, which runs through the site. An overlook and masonry bridge are planned.
"We're trying to work in all these features so people can get down to the creek," Garner said. "The important part is to make sure the water feature is engineered so there is flowing water in the creek at all times."
About 50 years ago, 900 feet of the creek through the site was funneled into a 102-inch metal culvert and buried.
Over time, the businesses closed and the buildings were removed. Sinkholes emerged when the culvert began to fail in 2016.
By 2019, it had failed completely and created the possibility of downtown and upstream flooding. A portion of the creek was opened and fenced off as the village considered options.
In late 2020, the village bought seven parcels that comprised what is known as the Pittman property for $510,000. The Lakota Group was hired to produce detailed concept plans to redevelop the site as open space, with programming and park features and Sequoit Creek exposed.
Lakota, a Chicago-based firm specializing in urban design, landscape architecture and related aspects, had created a downtown beautification plan approved by the village in February.
The site remediation, expected to be done by the end of August, is a major advance, Gartner said.
Next, the village wants to finalize the park design and secure permits involving environmental and stormwater management issues, with hopes of breaking ground in spring.
"Even though there won't be much physical work happening between now and next spring, there will be significant efforts going on behind the scenes with the numerous moving parts associated with the project," Gartner said.
He said the village has secured $5 million in state and federal grants for the project. If all goes as planned. the new park could be complete by early 2024, according to the village.