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Emerald Living drops plans for South Side mixed-use project

Barcelona Housing Systems’ proposed South Works redevelopment and Barry O’Neill

Emerald Living is walking away for its plans to build a new neighborhood with as many as 20,000 homes on the site of the old U.S. Steel South Works on the South Side.

The Irish developer had said as recently as last month it was still moving forward with the multibillion-dollar mixed-use project, but today that changed, according to Crain’s.

“We generated lots of goodwill and momentum with our inclusive, community-centric vision for this property,” Emerald Living CEO Barry O’Neill said in a statement. “However, and perhaps not surprisingly, the industrial heritage of this site presented significant challenges which, despite best endeavors by all, made it impossible to conclude the deal with U.S. Steel in its current format.”

Emerald Living, a unit of Dublin, Ireland-based WElink, last year partnered with Barcelona Housing Systems, a Spanish builder of modular housing, to announce plans for the 440-acre lakefront property from 79th Street to the Calumet River still owned by U.S. Steel.

Last month, Emerald Living said the project was on hold due to contamination at the site, even though U.S. Steel said it had been given the all-clear on any environmental problems from the EPA.

U.S. Steel closed its mill on the site in 1992. The Pittsburgh-based company spent a decade working with Chicago-based McCaffery Interests planning a $4 billion redevelopment that would have included thousands of homes, millions of square feet of commercial space and a marina.

That partnership fell apart in 2016. U.S. Steel then hired Cushman & Wakefield to find a buyer for the site.

Emerald Living had five months to conduct due diligence, including environmental tests. The firm later received an extension until mid-May, “after contaminants were found,” the Tribune reported.

U.S. Steel spokeswoman Meghan Cox confirmed that Emerald Living terminated its contract to buy the property

“We will be putting the property back on the market for sale, including approaching several parties that previously expressed interest in the property,” the statement said. [Crain’s] — John O’Brien

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