Last Wednesday, one of the buildings on the old Brach candy company site was blown up as part of the new Batman movie. Every TV station and newspaper reported on the event. Many Austin residents were shown after the demolition took place, and they told of enjoying seeing the huge fireball as well as watching how all of it was done.
For over a year, I have watched while that particular four-story building was stripped of everything. Windows, door, interior plumbing and electrical pipes were all removed. In fact, on the Monday before the fireball demolition of the building, I had taken the Lake Street el and had noticed more activity than usual. Two days later, the news media was filled with stories about how that site was being used as part of the Batman film.
The building they blew up was the newer building of those that make up the Brach site. To many who pass the site, driving up and down Cicero, not much appears changed other than the demolition of that building. But to the rest of us who take the Green Line, we can see that bricks are missing from the back part of the main factory building. Lots of bricks! Now I know the Brach building is huge, so it’s hard to believe that someone is going up six flights of stairs and stealing bricks from that part of the building unless …
Well, here’s my conspiracy theory: I have no proof, other than my innate ability to use logic and common sense. I believe the owners of the Brach candy company site are trying to demolish the buildings slowly so as to get to the land. Right now, the site isn’t worth nearly as much as it would be if it were vacant land. And demolishing the building legitimately would cost close to $10 million.
The Brach site is currently zoned for manufacturing. Many of the people who want the land aren’t interested in a huge obsolete factory. So as long as the factory exists on the land, it can’t be used for big box stores or condominiums. As long as the building remains on the land, the value of the land is less than if the land were vacant.
The city also isn’t giving out any permits to tear down the entire structure because if it did so, the zoning for the land would have to change. And the city would show its hand by acknowledging that once you give permission to demolish the factory, then the city would be admitting they are part of the plans for the land, which is a rock’s throw away from the city incinerator/garbage processing facility. The land could be part of a larger plan to change the West Side if the Brach candy site were vacant. So the sneakier option is to slowly demolish the building, brick by brick, until you get the building to such a point that the only choice left is to tear it down. Then the city and the politicians can proclaim they are only going along with “the plan” now because “it’s our only option.”
Why should those of us who live in Austin be concerned about an unauthorized demolition of the rest of the old Brach candy site? Because what is happening is not a controlled demolition of a building where asbestos and any other toxic chemicals/compounds are monitored and controlled. Instead into the air we breathe, someone is deconstructing the Brach site and by doing so in this deceptive manner, is subjecting the community to who knows what?
Why is that old Brach site left unguarded? Who is removing all the bricks and items from the Brach site every day? What plans are in the works for that site, seeing that the newest building was destroyed? When will the community learn of the plans for the site? Will we learn via TV or will Ald. Ed Smith (28th Ward) as well as state Rep. LaShawn Ford, state Sen. Earlene Collins and Cong. Danny K. Davis tell us in advance?
Also, who owns the site?
Watching part of the old Brach site get blown up was exciting. Now let’s not sit back and watch while plans for that site blow up in our faces as well. It is time for the political leadership to tell us what is fixing to happen with that site. And since I am one to always compare what happens in our community to how similar situations are handled in other communities, I want to point out that the old Marshall Field warehouse at 4000 W. Diversey is closing. Let’s see if the city and the local politicians for that area allow that huge site to sit vacant and unprotected while bricks disappear from it.