Preservation Groups Seek Plans for Old Courthouse

Landmarks Illinois and Courthouse Preservation Partnership are calling on qualified developers and architectural firms to share their potential reuse visions for the former Will County Courthouse in Joliet.

But officials from Will County, which owns the old courthouse, say they are continuing with remediation and demolition plans.

Officials from the Partnership note those plans, and are issuing an exploratory Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for purposes of compiling and sharing potential reuse ideas with Will County officials.

The former Will County Courthouse is owned by the county and has sat vacant since 2020, when the county moved into its newly constructed courthouse. Built in 1969 and designed by Otto Stark of C.F. Murphy Associates, the former courthouse represents the first and largest brutalist building in the Will County region. Despite its significance and eligibility to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Will County officials passed a resolution calling for the building’s demolition. This demolition threat led Landmarks Illinois to include the building on its 2022 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois.

“There is growing interest among Will County residents to see their one-of-a-kind former courthouse reused instead of torn down, but Will County officials continue to insist there is no reason to initiate any sort of public process that would explore reinvestment of the property,” said Bonnie McDonald, Landmarks Illinois President & CEO in a press release.

“This lack of action has encouraged Landmarks Illinois and its local preservation partner in Joliet, Courthouse Preservation Partnership, to solicit expressions of interest, which we will present to the county as a means to encourage an official Request for Proposals for the building’s reuse.”

Landmarks officials say their request for plans “is for advocacy purposes only,” and is not affiliated with the county. They say he exploratory request will remain open until March 10, 2023. Responses can be emailed to Landmarks Illinois Regional Advocacy Manager Quinn Adamowski at [email protected].

The community-based plans thus far have had little effect on the county’s plans. After being made aware of the group’s plans, Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant issued the following statement:

“The demolition of the vacant courthouse will continue. As the project moves forward, Will County will be working with our partners in Joliet to establish a long-term plan to redevelop the property for continued public use.”

County Board Chair Judy Ogalla, R-Monee, expressed similar comments.

“The discussion of what to do with the old courthouse has been going on for a long time. The ownership of the land (and the building) it sits on dictates that it must be used for a public use. The property is held in trust for the people of Will County, and the County holds it in trust for the people of Will County.

“Will County will need a new executive building in the future. The location of the old courthouse would allow us to build an Executive Office in downtown Joliet in close proximity to other county buildings in downtown Joliet. The land would be free to build a new building leaving the old executive office building to repurpose for the County services that are currently in rented spaces.”



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