Residents oppose BP plans to raze historic homes

A malfunction at BP's Whiting refinery sent oil into Lake Michigan Tuesday. (AP Photo/The Times, Kyle Telechan)
A malfunction at BP's Whiting refinery sent oil into Lake Michigan Tuesday. (AP Photo/The Times, Kyle Telechan)

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (AP) — Residents who live near BP’s sprawling oil refinery in northwestern Indiana are worried by the company’s plan to demolish buildings in their historic neighborhood next week.

BP plans to start tearing down 10 properties in East Chicago’s Marktown neighborhood just east of its Whiting oil refinery beginning Monday.

The buildings include the former Marktown hotel and boarding house, and nine English village-style houses.

The area was designed in 1917 as a model industrial community to house workers at local companies, but only four of the 30 planned sections were built. About 550 residents still live there, but the neighborhood has declined.

The neighborhood is on the National Register of Historic Places, but that designation doesn’t prevent demolition.

BP spokesman Scott Dean said the properties were acquired as part of long-standing plans to increase green space around the refinery. The properties were sold to BP by a local family.

“They can’t make people leave,” Marktown resident Kim Rodriguez told the Post-Tribune. “BP is waiting for the last homeowner to sell. How dare they try to take it away from us? And it angers me they can do what they want to people.”

Community activists said they will go to court to try to stay the demolition for 90 days.

“People who I grew up with here don’t want to go. It’s affordable,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve always lived here so I can’t imagine walking out the door for the last time.”

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