A demolition crew has fenced off the old Will County Courthouse in preparation for interior demolition expected to begin in the coming weeks.
The county is still awaiting state approval before it can begin demolition, said Michael Theodore, spokesman for Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant.
While preservationists appear to have failed in an effort to save the building in downtown Joliet, the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office has required the county to compile a historical record of the building.
“Everything has been submitted,” Theodore said Tuesday. “As far as we are concerned, there are no other steps we have to complete for the state.”
State Sen. Rachel Ventura, D-Joliet, recently filed legislation that could be useful in saving the building, although the chances for that appear slim at best.
State approval for demolition could come as early as next week, which would allow demolition crews to begin working on the inside of the courthouse, Theodore said. Nothing has been removed yet.
Fencing around the site went up last week.
Work being done on-site this week has including digging for a pad that will be used during demolition and preparatory work for protecting monuments in the courtyard.
“They’re going to start building some structures around the monuments to protect them,” Theodore said.
The courtyard monuments “are going to stay there throughout the process,” he said. “There hasn’t been a plan to move them because the future of the property has not been determined.”
The project is proceeding close to the schedule announced by the county when a $1.5 million demolition contract was awarded to American Demolition Corp. in October. At that time, county officials said they expected crews to begin preparing the site for demolition in November.
Exterior demolition could start sometime in early 2024, Theodore said.
“It will depend on when the interior work is done,” he said. “It’s possible it could be in January or February.”
Meanwhile, the effort to preserve the building has not died.
Ventura said she recently filed legislation that would be brought to the General Assembly in early 2024 that would allow the building to be repurposed for other uses.
The building sits on land that has a deed dedicating the space to be used for public use. Ventura’s legislation would allow flexibility in how the space could be used by declaring historic preservation a public use.
Ventura said she created the legislation after a County Board committee in November created an ad hoc committee to look at possible reuse of the building, another apparent late effort to preserve the building.
“There is hope for the county to make different decisions,” Ventura said. “But they are on a short timetable.”