Joliet Commission Focuses on Will County Courthouse Landmark


The Joliet Historic Preservation Commission is considering whether to recommend the former Will County Courthouse for local historic designation, which would delay plans to demolish the vacant building.

The commission said Wednesday after hearing input from several residents and county officials who want to preserve the building on whether the building at 14 W. Jefferson St. in downtown Joliet should be designated a landmark. Refused to make recommendations. The committee continued to meet until 28 June.

Joliet city ordinance states that a demolition permit cannot be issued for up to 180 days after receiving an application for consideration of historic status. The Historic Preservation Commission makes recommendations to the Joliet City Council, which has the final say on landmarks.

The Courts Preservation Partnership, which wants to reuse the building, submitted an application for landmark designation on April 14 and has kept the building safe from demolition until mid-October or until the Joliet City Council makes a final decision.

The Will County Commission in January voted to hire an engineering firm to prepare the scope for demolition. The county will solicit bids for the demolition next month and expects demolition to begin in August, according to county documents.

The county commission still has to vote on the demolition contract.

Janet Diaz, a member of the Will County Commission and a Joliet Democrat whose district the court is in, says she wants to reuse the old courthouse.

But the desire to preserve and redevelop the building is growing on county commissions, with both Republicans and Democrats interested in alternative ideas.

The board voted to demolish the courthouse for the first time in 2019, when a new courthouse was under construction nearby. About half of the Will County Commission has been replaced by new members since the 2019 vote.

Will County Treasurer Tim Brophy and county commissioners Dan Butler (City of Frankfort), Janet Diaz (Joliet), and Sherry Williams (Crest Hill) all met with the Historic Preservation Commission on Wednesday. At the meeting, he expressed a position in favor of preservation.

“They have no plans for this land. They just want to tear it down,” Butler said. “It doesn’t make sense to me. …Tearing down a building that could just be rebuilt doesn’t seem like a sound decision.”

Butler, a Republican, said he would continue to oppose demolition and said he believed it would be more financially responsible to preserve the building.

Williams, a Democrat, is also interested in saving the courts and said he believed he could convince county commissioners.

“We believe this building is worth preserving and will become an asset to the City of Joliet,” Williams said.

Will County Treasurer Tim Brophy, who lives in Joliet, supports preservation of the courthouse.

The Courts Preservation Partnership Group acknowledged that the county was not interested in naming the courthouse a landmark, but no one was present at Wednesday’s meeting to represent the county in opposing the designation. The Will County Executive said it was following the intent of the county commission’s decision to proceed with the demolition.

Hudson Hollister, a founding member of the Courts Preservation Partnership, said his organization is looking for developers interested in reusing courts and has received interest from six different companies that have submitted nine different proposals. said. Private companies are ready to invest $70 million to $80 million in redevelopment, which could include spaces for courthouses, hotels, bars and restaurants, he said.

“The economic potential of this location is very exciting,” says Hollister.

Quinn Adamowski, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, said developers could take advantage of significant tax incentives when redeveloping buildings.

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“Historically, when you think about preservation, it’s been a dusty academic concept,” he says. “But that’s changing. Historic preservation isn’t just about preserving old buildings. It’s a tool for economic development. It’s the intersection of culture and art.”

Adamowski said the commission can protect historic resources while promoting economic growth. He said it was important to continue consultations with officials and residents of Joliet and Will counties and believed the old court was one of the most important landmarks the commission considered. .

Frankfort Republican Dan Butler, a member of the Will County Commission, has taken a stance in favor of preservation.

“We are the county seat,” Adamowski said. “This is our downtown. I think it’s a tragedy that we can’t explore options for adaptive reuse of .”

Brophy, a county treasurer and former Joliet City Councilman, said he initially thought the courthouse should be demolished, but he toured the old building, which has been repurposed into a hotel and conference center. He said he believes the old court could introduce new property and sales taxes in the county and catalyze other developments.

Other residents said the Old Courthouse was iconic and identifiable for the city of Joliet.

“This is the epitome of Joliet,” said Barry McCue. “We are a working city. Is it true?”

Michelle Mullins is a freelance reporter.


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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