Pavilion to replace contaminated Mendota site

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Step off the train in Mendota and facing the platform is an abandoned dry-cleaning business – and the contents of the soil beneath it are uglier. That building finally is coming down, followed by remediation of the contaminated earth. In its place will go a bandstand called the Pavilion on Main, which will beautify downtown and potentially spur downtown growth.

Everything is finally coming together and coming to fruition.”

David Boelk, Mendota mayor

“It’s very exciting,” Mayor David Boelk said at a Wednesday news conference, where city and civic leaders unveiled the before-and-after plans that will keep workers busy the next two years. “Everything is finally coming together and coming to fruition.”

As previously reported, Mendota is getting nearly $1.3 million in federal help to clean up the blighted two-parcel site that included a dry-cleaning business and farm implement/auto parts retailer. The $1,270,305 Brownfields grant will fund a clean-up of the former Campbell Cleaners and Car Quest Auto Parts property, which is contaminated with volatile organic compounds and metals.

Once the demolition and clean-up are finished, up will go a community gathering space that includes a bandstand. Though a price tag on that project is not yet available, city and civic officials have launched a fundraising drive in earnest.

The first two donors were the Carroll family, which pledged a $10,000 donation, and Black Bros. Co., which pledged to match donations up to $100,000.

“Our team is committed to giving back to the community that has supported us for generations,” said Megan Kneebone, chief financial officer for Black Bros. “Together, we can make a difference and created a much-needed gathering spots.”

Getting to this spot was years in the making that Emily McConville, city clerk and director of economic development, choked up at the realization that groundbreaking finally can begin.

An environmental assessment was done in 2005, which yielded a dreaded but unsurprising verdict: dry-cleaning chemicals had left behind a big mess that would require a big cleanup at a huge cost.

The city acquired and then demolished the Campbell’s building in 2019 and 2020, respectively, and acquired the auto parts store two years later. The city applied for the Brownfields grant in 2023.

With the federal money in hand, the auto parts store will come down in autumn and the cleanup will begin in spring 2025. Construction of the pavilion begins late next year or early 2026 depending on the success of the fundraising drive spearheaded by Reimagine Mendota in cooperation with Starved Rock Country Community Foundation.

“Given that the cleanup will require about two years to complete,” McConville said, “focusing on the second phase (the pavilion) allows the community to engage in the vision, develop a plan and and raise funds to implement the project immediately after phase one’s completion.”

To donate, visit srccf.org/fund/reimagine-mendota/ or send a check to the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation, 241 Marquette St., La Salle, IL 61301. Donations by check should include “Reimagine Mendota/Pavilion on Main” in the memo.

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