The new plan for the old courthouse site that has been sitting vacant at 14 W. Jefferson St. for about 2 1/2 years was announced in a statement on Monday from Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant.
“Having both of our services in a unified campus, at the entrance of downtown Joliet, will promote visibility of local government and ensure that residents get the modern services they deserve."— Joliet Mayor Terry D'Arcy
Bertino-Tarrant and Joliet Mayor Terry D’Arcy have “partnered together” to explore the creation of a consolidated government campus for “both county and city services.”
The campus will replace the old courthouse, which is slated for demolition this fall. It’s not yet known on what exact date the demolition will take place.
“The potential for both of our governments to share a single space would be transformational for Joliet and Will County,” Bertino-Tarrant said in the statement.
D’Arcy showed support for the concept.
“Having both of our services in a unified campus, at the entrance of downtown Joliet, will promote visibility of local government and ensure that residents get the modern services they deserve,” D’Arcy said in a statement.
Bertino-Tarrant’s office had no information on Monday about the projected costs for the campus, what county and city services would be housed at the location or when the building would open.
“These are preliminary conversations. Having an open dialogue with the city will allow us both to assess options and pursue more detailed information,” said Michael Theodore, a spokesman for the Will County Executive’s Office.
Bertino-Tarrant’s office will work with the city to determine their space needs and update the assessment of the county’s needs, Theodore said.
One of the main advocates for preserving the old courthouse building is Quinn Adamowksi, a Joliet resident and regional advocacy manager for Landmarks Illinois.
This year, the organization had six firms that responded to their request for expressions of interest in redevelopment of the building.
Adamowski said he wasn’t surprised by Monday’s announcement. He said there had been private discussions in the past about turning the site into a government complex.
Adamowski said he considered the consolidation of government services a good thing for citizens.
However, he questioned whether it was necessary tear down the historic courthouse when there are other spaces downtown for a consolidated campus, such as a hardly used parking lot next to the courthouse.
Adamowski said it “seems wasteful to tear [the courthouse] down.”
“Why does it have to be new? Why not take the current building and redevelop it and save millions of tax dollars?” he said, adding that it’s possible for a developer to receive 45% in state and federal tax credits for redevelopment of the courthouse site.
When asked if the demolition and campus project will have less cost than the redevelopment of the building itself, Theodore said it was “too preliminary” to get into the costs of the campus project.
The cost of demolition is $2 million, and that has been allocated in this year’s budget by the county board, Theodore said.
The bid for demolition has not gone out yet.
“We’re still reviewing and finalizing our internal timeline. The plan is to begin the demolition process in the fall,” Theodore said.
Adamowski said he believes there is “more to come in terms of public discussion.”
The Joliet Historic Preservation Commission will have a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at city hall regarding the old courthouse.