With cleanup of an adjacent property nearly complete, Monticello city leaders hope to take requests from developers for “Pepsin Hill” yet this year.
It’s been a long time coming for property that once boasted the four-story Syrup Pepsin factory, which closed in 1985. The city then used $257,500 in grants and a $425,000 Illinois Protection Agency loan to clean and clear the three-acre site – located near Market Street west of the courthouse square – in 2005.
“I think we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel on this Pepsin Hill. We may actually get to do a request for proposal yet this year,” Monticello City Administrator Terry Summers told the city council on May 28.
One remaining hurdle is the cleanup of Tract 8, located on former feed mill property to the north of the former Pepsin plant, but now also considered part of the “Hill.”
The city could sell both parcels as one to a developer, possibly closing Livingston Street between Park and Irving Street to make it a more contiguous lot.
Tract 8 – which measures just 2,600 square feet – at one point had an overhead fuel tank that leaked, requiring cleanup. The Illinois EPA wants more groundwater study done before it approves a remediation plan for the small parcel.
“IEPA is requiring additional modeling and notification of the potential migration of estimated plume of iron and manganese traveling toward the railroad property,” stated Summers. “The engineer is completing the bidding and contract documents for the remedial work, which would be advertised next month. The remediation should happen this year.”
That will likely include the excavation of soil that will be disposed of and replaced by fresh topsoil.
When remediation is complete, the city will likely put out requests for proposal, similar to process done to sell a former downtown bank building to developer Spencer Atkins.
Although the city has taken ownership of Tract 8, it has an agreement from former owners which rill reimburse the city up to $180,000 in cleanup costs. About $77,432 has been spent so far.
The city also hopes to re-route Railroad Street to take out the 90-degree turn at Park Street, instead curving it along the railroad property and connecting it with Livingston Street.
Several ideas for the Pepsin property have come and gone since the cleanup was completed 14 years ago, from a small movie theatre and retail space to a possible site for a new library building, which instead decided to build on the west edge of town.
In 2015, a Cincinnati-based firm proposed a 45-unit multi-family housing project, but that effort never got off the ground.
One thing city leaders want is for the property to serve as an extension of the downtown business district. That is one reason a pedestrian-activated walkway is being installed later this year at Washington and Market Streets.
“It’s always been discussed that it will be a continuation of the downtown look and feel and atmosphere,” added Summers. “That’s always been the intent, and hopefully we can see that come to fruition as early as next year.”