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$600K state grant to help transform historic WWJ building in Oak Park

Posted at 5:34 PM, Aug 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-27 21:27:31-04

OAK PARK, Mich. (WXYZ) — More than three years ago, the purchase of an old radio building in Oak Park was announced.

The WWJ transmitter site and the five acres around it were bought by the restaurant group Union Joints. They announced the 8MK project back in 2016.

“This definitely delivered some surprises,” said co-owner Curt Catallo.

Surprises include flooding in the basement and then finding out contamination issues were more than what they planned for.

“You don’t think of radio station as being industrial but when this was built it was pretty industrial," Catallo said. "It had transformers, it had transmitters, all these components that did have some environmental impact.”

Catallo never gave up hope for this project.

“It’s the biggest property we’ve ever had the opportunity to redevelop,” he said.

The iconic 1936 Art Deco building sits on 12700 W. 8 Mile Road. The plan is to seat about 100, have outdoor seating and a parking lot in the back.

“The city of Oak Park has really laid down these bread crumbs for us to follow through the whole grant process,” Catallo said.

The $600,000 brownfield grant from the state will help clean up PCBs, asbestos and contaminated soil.

“We’ve been doing this for 25 years, re-purposing buildings but we’ve never gone after a grant like this,” Catallo said.

The building has been vacant for more than 20 years. The $4 million redevelopment will bring the city 100 new jobs.

“So, we owe Oak Park a restaurant on this site,” he said.

Now, they plan to open the restaurant late 2020.