News - Joliet and Will County

New owners of old Joliet diocese property seek zoning for winery

New owners of the old Diocese of Joliet property plan to use the former tribunal building shown here for a winery.

JOLIET – Owners of the old Diocese of Joliet property will seek zoning board approval of their winery project in March.

The Joliet City Council last week approved a zoning variation allowing new office space at the former chancery building on the Bridge Street site of the former diocesan offices.

If all goes smoothly, a winery could be operating in the fall at the former tribunal building, although Sehring Property Holdings is looking for another tenant at the old chancery since Catholic Charities appears to have changed plans.

The new owners applied this week for zoning that would make a winery possible at the former tribunal building, a 19th-century house that was built by brewer Frederick Sehring and later became the first home for Joliet bishops when the diocese was created in 1948.

Phil Soto, one of the partners in the group, said the application may be considered by the zoning board at its March 16 meeting.

Soto said the group has they have “no set deadline” for opening the winery but hope to start making wine later this year.

“What we’re shooting for is to be open, but not to the public, by fall so we can have our first grape crushing,” Soto said Friday. “It takes a year and a half to get the wine ready. If we were open right now, we’d have nothing to sell.”

Sehring Property Holdings plans to eventually hold wine tastings and small events at the house.

The third building on the site, the John Paul II House that later became a residence for bishops, will be used as a residence by two of the Sehring Property Holdings partners who live in Joliet.

The group is looking again for tenants at the former chancery building since Catholic Charities, which was going to move Head Start administrative offices into the property, now says it is likely to keep that operation in the downtown building where they are at now.

Soto has met with the St. John’s Neighborhood Association, which advocates for the neighborhood in which the old diocese buildings are located, and the neighboring Cathedral Area Preservation Association.

Candace Johnson, president of the St. John’s Neighborhood Association, told the city council last week that the group is “very excited and thrilled” with the office zoning for the chancery building.

The building had been zoned for multi-family residential despite its use for diocese offices for about 50 years. But the new owners were required to get the appropriate zoning to use the building for offices.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News