Developer had big plans for land polluted by the steel industry on Chicago’s Southeast Side. Instead, he flipped the property for millions, and now taxpayers likely will pay for the cleanup.

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

During the last years of Chicago’s once-mighty steel industry, a clout-heavy developer seized an opportunity to make millions while offering the city’s beleaguered Southeast Side a glimmer of hope.

Donald Schroud vowed to create hundreds of jobs by building an industrial park and sports complex on a swath of heavily polluted land he bought in 1994 from one of the last steel companies operating along the Calumet River.

For just $50,000, the deal gave Schroud control of a corner of the city nearly nine times larger than Millennium Park.

Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration embraced the developer’s plans. But another City Hall power broker helped doom the ambitious project from the start.

Now-indicted Ald. Edward Burke shepherded legislation creating a special taxing district intended to provide enough money to clean up Schroud’s land, build roads and install sewers, city records show. Then, working in his private capacity as Schroud’s tax attorney, Burke won an appeal that slashed the land’s value by 75%, depriving the city of millions slated to make the site attractive to new businesses.

A Tribune investigation found Schroud cashed in six years later by flipping half of the property to another developer for $4.2 million — a whopping 84 times more than what he paid for the entire site. He left behind some of the most toxic land in the city, setting back for decades the renewal of neighborhoods devastated by layoffs and lost retirement benefits when steel companies abandoned Chicago…

Last year, the biggest parcel Schroud still owns became the city’s newest Superfund site, a federal designation reserved for the nation’s most contaminated properties. Taxpayers likely will be left with the tab for a long and costly cleanup.

He donated other tracts to a youth baseball organization in the Hegewisch neighborhood. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently discovered that a field the Babe Ruth League built at 126th Place and Carondolet Avenue is contaminated with high levels of toxic manganese. (Schroud did not previously own a nearby ball field cleaned up during the summer by the EPA, according to property records.)

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