Budzinski presents Moving Pillsbury Forward with funds for plant demolition, cleanup

Moving Pillsbury Forward, June 6 2024, Nikki Budzinski, money award

On Thursday, June 6, Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski of Illinois’s 13th Congressional District presented an award of $1 million in federal funds to community not-for-profit Moving Pillsbury Forward, to help with deconstruction efforts at the old Pillsbury factory.

Situated in the northwestern edge of Ward 3 and surrounded by Wards 2, 4 and 5, the derelict Pillsbury flour mill – once a flagship production plant for its namesake company – has sat abandoned since 2001, when its final owner Cargill vacated the property.

Front of Pillsbury plant, June 6 2024

Since then, the building has progressed into a state of gradual brownfield rot. Persistent bush eagerly sprouts from silt deposited by the wind in corners of the rooftop, where birds of prey roost between bricks and rubble.

With costs of cleanup estimated at over $10 million, private redevelopment simply never materialized. The Moving Pillsbury Forward project acquired the site in 2022, hoping to generate support at the municipal, state and federal levels to finally bring down the decayed buildings.

We estimated that this would be a $10-12 million project,” said Chris Richmond, President of Moving Pillsbury Forward. “We now have financial commitments at the $9.2 million level. The biggest part of that is the federal government’s commitment.”

“[This $1 million] is going to take down this tan-brick building behind me.”
“[This $1 million] is going to take down this tan-brick building behind me.”
In addition to the $1M presented on Thursday for demolition work, Budzinski’s office has, through the EPA, secured several million more dollars for asbestos abatement throughout the Pillsbury complex.

It’s incredibly important, because it’s not just about the environmental impact, but getting this area to a place where we can again get economic development,” Budzinski told the press. “Creating opportunities for the surrounding communities — that’s what I really want to continue to be a part of.”

The post-Pillsbury future of the site remains uncertain, however.

Among proposals for redevelopment of the abandoned land is a park and playground. Much of the talks will hinge on the success of a thorough decontamination once the 1929 complex’s eighteen acres.

Currently, a corner of the site’s parking area is home to an independent community garden; the product of the SIU School of Medicine’s Operation Taproot. Food-bearing plants are grown there, with produce being distributed throughout the surrounding community at harvest: peppers, beans, mustard, kale, cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, a variety of herbs and various pollinators are all produced in the garden. At present, the operation manages a dozen beds of vegetables, which are stood off the ground to help isolate the plants from potential ground contaminants. In time, the garden’s minders hope to expand their plot to more than 30 such beds.

pepper sprouting at Pillsbury community garden, June 6 2024

Since Moving Pillsbury Forward began its stewardship of the ruins only a few years ago, the facility has been host to a number of creative repurposings of its old factory halls — graffiti painters have filled the brick walls with art, offered exhibitions of their galleries, which inevitably will be destroyed when the remaining tan-brick buildings come down.

What is in store for the community, only time will tell.

Nevertheless, says Budzinski, “I’m going to keep working as their partner, to make sure that we complete this project.”

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