Andrew Corporation's former office and factory headquarters site in Orland Park, Illinois, Monday, May 13, 2013. Andrew's parent, CommScope, is still involved in a lengthy project to clean up contamination on the 73-acre site. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 20, 2013 6:08AM
Andrew Corp.’s former headquarters and wireless communications equipment factory in Orland Park, vacant since 2007, will be demolished, according to Andrew’s parent company.
CommScope plans to start demolition work at the end of this month, and razing the 600,000-square-foot complex, 10500 W. 153rd St., could take up to four months to complete, Rick Aspan, a CommScope spokesman, said.
The company hopes to eventually market the 73-acre property that had been eyed for housing before the real estate market collapsed.
CommScope still faces a lengthy process to clean up pollutants on the land, residue left from decades of manufacturing at the site. That cleanup work will likely extend into 2015.
Andrew first found evidence of the pollution — a metal degreasing solvent that was commonly used by manufacturers — in 2008 and publicly disclosed it in the summer of 2010 after conducting more tests. Wireless communications equipment, including coaxial cable and antennas, was manufactured at the plant, and the solvent was used to clean antennas.
The company has said it’s confident the problem is confined to its property and that soil tests of neighboring sites didn’t show contamination. Andrew previously said it did not find evidence of contamination in an 11-acre pond, called Lake Andrew, on its property, and that there are no wells used anywhere near the site.
CommScope said the start of demolition depends on when it receives the necessary permits from Orland Park and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which is overseeing the cleanup of the contaminated soil.
North Carolina-based CommScope bought Andrew in 2007, the same year Andrew relocated its headquarters to Westchester and built a new factory in Joliet, leaving the Orland Park buildings vacant since then.
Victor J. “Doc” Andrew started the company in the basement of a home on Chicago’s Southwest Side, and in 1947 bought 430 acres in Orland Park, paying about $200 an acre. Some of the land was later sold for housing development.
While the Orland Park plant might not have been the birthplace of wireless communication, as mobile networks grew, Andrew Corp. provided the backbone that helped ensure that you got a signal regardless of whether you were dropping your kid off at soccer or ready to get on a jet at O’Hare International Airport.
Before building its factory off Interstate 80 in Joliet, the company had considered alternate sites, including one in Orland Park.
Now, the empty Orland Park property has “no useful life anymore,” and clearing the buildings will “help us have the property ready for future development, whenever that may be,” Aspan said.
Andrew had a contract to sell the land to a home builder, which planned hundreds of single-family homes and townhouses, but that sale fell through in 2007 as the housing market began to falter. In late 2008, when another buyer had been lined up, testing uncovered the soil contamination, and Andrew pulled the property off the market.
A 30-acre parcel Andrew owned on the south side of 151st Street is being developed as Sheffield Square, a townhouse community, by M/I Homes.
CommScope has begun a pilot project to remove contamination on the property north of 151st Street but needs approval from the IEPA for a more extensive cleanup, Aspan said. He said the company, working with a contractor, plans to start the project next year with a timetable of between a year and 18 months.
Once the land is deemed suitable to put on the market, it’s unlikely it could be developed for housing, Aspan said.
“Industrial land like that can never be 100 percent clean,” he said.