MAT Asphalt owner Michael Tadin Jr. stands in front of the new asphalt plant, slated to open this month.

Asphalt Manufacturer, Community Members Engage Concerns and Plans Around New Plant

Published April 6, 2018

The new MAT Asphalt plant at 4010 S. Damen Ave. is set to begin making asphalt within a couple weeks, and plant operators, community members and elected officials are scrambling to coordinate and communicate what the new business means for the neighborhood.

In an interview and plant tour, MAT Asphalt owner Michael Tadin Jr. provided details about manufacturing operations and how the plant fits into his related, nearby businesses. He also addressed concerns about air pollution, the top issue raised by community members at recent meetings of the McKinley Park Civic Association.

"Emissions are minimal because of the positive capture system on newly designed plants," Tadin said. He noted that that MAT Asphalt has installed all-new, next-generation equipment and that emissions from contemporary hot-mix asphalt plants are much less than many other industries. "It's less emissIons than a bakery," he said.

Tadin pointed to industry literature and media to support his contention, including a pamphlet on the Environmental Impact of Asphalt Plants from the National Asphalt Pavement Association. He also recommended a video produced by Lakeside Industries on their Maple Valley Asphalt Plant: The video provides information on the process of making asphalt, and the Maple Valley plant uses the same equipment as the MAT Asphalt installation (an Ultraplant from the Gencor company).

Background research into the asphalt industry revealed that it has dramatically cleaned up its act over the past couple decades, with industry sources touting a 97 percent reduction in emissions. In 2002, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delisted asphalt manufacturing as a source of hazardous air pollutants.

MAT Asphalt towersAsphaltic cement and loadout towers rise into the sky at the MAT Asphalt facility.Amber Cicotte owns a home with her husband in the McKinley Park neighborhood near the new asphalt plant. She also works professionally as a senior scientist providing industrial environmental management services through BBJ Group. In her role, she's worked with multiple asphalt facilities, helping with construction permits, environmental permits and "the regular reporting and auditing necessary to run a responsible and compliant plant," she said.

She described the MAT Asphalt facility as "a low-impact environmental concern. The air emissions are very limited and will not constitute a degradation of air quality, nor an impact to public health, assuming the facility is operated in accordance with the permit that has been issued."

The MAT Asphalt construction permit — issued by the Illinois EPA on October 26, 2017 — lists the specific equipment, emissions limits, compliance requirements, testing and inspection regimen, and many other details related to the facility. It was issued after a 150-day-long review period, Tadin said.

The project cost $10 million to develop, all privately financed without public grants or incentives, he said. The property housing the plant was already owned by Tadin, part of his 28 acres stretching from the plant east to Ashland Avenue behind the large buildings of the Central Manufacturing District.

The plant represents one of his first major developments in the Central Manufacturing District, Tadin said, but he is planning to also submit a development proposal for C40's Reinventing Cities design competition, which the City of Chicago is using to promote the sale and development of their large, underutilized properties from 1717 to 1819 W. Pershing Road.

Now that primary construction on the asphalt plant is complete, it is ready for the live testing of operations and emissions required before opening for business. Once operational, Tadin said he expects the plant to dovetail off his many other business interests and development projects on the Southwest Side of Chicago.

"MAT Asphalt will be a building block for my road paving division," Tadin said, noting his history of 20 years in this industry and thousands of miles of resurfaced city streets. Tadin's cadre of businesses — as well as related businesses owned by other family members, including Tadin's father, Michael Tadin Sr. — make their home in the Stockyards at their headquarters at 4450 S. Morgan St.

Through his businesses, Tadin has been extremely active in nearby real estate development on the Southwest Side of Chicago for both commercial and residential properties. This includes new housing adjacent to the South Eleanor Street boat house at Park No. 571 in Bridgeport, a location that Tadin noted was enjoying rising property values, and Reliable Ogden LLC's asphalt and cement plant is only several hundred feet away on the north side of the South Branch of the Chicago River.

Tadin's largest current project is Marina Crossings, a gargantuan industrial development at 2075 W. 43rd St. in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. Designed for last-mile fulfillment, ecommerce warehousing, food service support and other uses, the project is part of Tadin's overall development strategy for the City of Chicago's Planned Manufacturing District (PMD) No. 8, aka the Stockyards District, which includes the Central Manufacturing District adjacent to McKinley Park.

MAT Asphalt dryer 20180404 forwebThe drum mixer at MAT Asphalt should only emit water vapor, Tadin said, due to its positive emissions capture and recovery system."Planned Manufacturing Districts are going away," Tadin said, noting the disappearance of manufacturing and industry from their traditional homes on the North Branch of the Chicago River and in the West Loop. Planned Manufacturing District No. 8 is ideal for both MAT Asphalt and other enterprises, he said, since it's in the center of Chicago. 

"With last mile delivery and other logistics operations that need to be in the city center, [this area] could be an economic engine for the community," Tadin said. "Our long-term plan ... is to develop this area as the epicenter for job creation within the City of Chicago."

Tadin estimated that at least 100 new union jobs, spread through MAT Asphalt and sister businesses, would result from the new asphalt plant.

In addition to concerns about pollution, local residents had expressed their surprise about the asphalt plant's construction at both community meetings and in online discussions about the McKinley Park neighborhood. Although MAT Asphalt LLC had followed all proper channels for business, environmental and other permits and licensing, and development had been proceeding since at least early 2017, the community only started to be aware of the project once construction was nearly complete.

"I believe that all construction and development projects planned for the neighborhood should be presented to its residents while still in the planning stages," Cicotte said. "As an environmental professional, community engagement is critical to a responsible and sustainable operation."

A zoning change was not required for the MAT Asphalt plant property. In fact, asphalt manufacturing is an expressly permitted activity for this part of PMD No. 8, according to a 2017 support letter to city Zoning Administrator Patricia Scudiero from the law offices of Daley and Georges, Ltd.

Zoning had to be changed for the unused, vacant property adjacent to MAT Asphalt, since it had been zoned residential from industrial in 2004 and would be too close to the plant. A zoning change to commercial use was granted in March 2017 with the support of 12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas, as well as the support of the property owner, Tadin said.

Tadin and connected business concerns have been financial supporters of Cardenas' political campaigns, according to the Illinois Sunshine website, which lists public records of political contributions. Listed donations include those made in 2015 and 2017.

Elected officials and community environmental organizations were formally notified of the proposed plant construction in an October 12, 2017, letter from the environmental justice office of the Illinois EPA. This included Illinois First District State Senator Antonio Muñoz, Illinois 2nd District State Representative Theresa Mah, the Respiratory Health Association, the Sierra Club, the American Lung Association and other political offices and non-governmental organizations. None seemingly communicated with the community about the asphalt plant.

Mah said they were unable to locate the letter and chalked this up to chaos surrounding their move to a new office in the fall. Similarly, 12th Ward representative Samie Martinez said at the April 4 civic association meeting that the 12th Ward could have done a better job informing the community sooner, but they were distracted by their participation in intense local primary elections. Mah said she intends to post all correspondence like this to the 2nd District's pending new website in order to better inform the community in the future.

Another project concern brought up by community members is increased truck traffic. Martinez noted at the April 4 civic association meeting that no asphalt trucks would be allowed on Damen Avenue north of Pershing Road, and that asphalt truck traffic would only occur on Pershing Road east of the plant, between it and Ashland Avenue.

Cicotte said she had hoped to see a planning document for truck traffic. "With an active neighborhood park and a school located along artery streets that the facility will be using, I think we need more planning for safe interactions between the trucks, pedestrians, and cyclists," she said.

Other elements of community outreach and discussion surrounding the MAT Asphalt business have started to coalesce very recently. The 12th Ward Independent Political Organization is hosting a Community Meeting on the New Asphalt Plant at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 25, at the McKinley Park public library. Also, the McKinley Park Civic Association is planning an asphalt plant tour for its members at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10.

If properly managed, the project will be a benefit to the neighborhood, Cicotte said. "The asphalt plant constitutes an appropriate use of the industrial area and, in my opinion, will be an improvement over the vacant, decaying buildings that still occupy much of the Central Manufacturing District.

"The CMD has been an industrial zone for a very, very long time and I believe that continued industrial use of this area is the most reasonable use," she said. "I’ll be keeping an eye on the operation, particularly with my environmental scientist perspective, to ensure that my new neighbors are operating responsibly."

The yard of the MAT Asphalt facility is still receiving finishing touches. A "green wall" at the facility's edge will partially conceal the site, Tadin said.
The yard of the MAT Asphalt facility is still receiving finishing touches. A "green wall" at the facility's edge will partially conceal the site, Tadin said.


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