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Will County ponders fate of courthouse building

Brock A. Stein | 4/13/2017, midnight
As they oversee the construction of a new Laraway Road sheriff’s station, Will County officials are already looking ahead to ...
Will County Courthouse in downtown Joliet Photo by Brock A. Stein

As they oversee the construction of a new Laraway Road sheriff’s station, Will County officials are already looking ahead to the day when it will be time to decide what to do with its courthouse complex in downtown Joliet.

After completion of the new sheriff’s facility also known as the law enforcement campus the county will set its sights on construction of a new courthouse west of the current site downtown as well as 2 satellite courthouses in the north and eastern parts of the county. The massive capital plan also calls for a new Health Department building to be constructed sometime around 2022.

The original plan called for a total of $225 million but the County Board amended the proposal last year to bump the total amount up to $275 million to give the board more leeway.

The county’s capital improvements committee discussed recently what will become of the old court house once the new 390,000-square foot facility on the site of the former Midwest Bank building is completed.

Committee member Jim Moustis said that the county would need to begin making decisions about how the building would be used, hoping, he said that it could be repurposed for new tenants.

“It will not be an inexpensive building to demolish, we know that,” said Moustis noting that he would “stay hopeful that we can repurpose that building.”

Officials from Wight & Co., the architects overseeing the building project, are in the process of determining the work needed to make the old courthouse usable for new tenants.

If the building is repurposed, that could help pay the construction bonds for the projects said board member Mike Fricilone which could help “reduce the overall cost.”

Other suggestions included a public/private partnership which would include housing some private sector businesses as well as some county usage as well such as some of the specialized courts that currently don’t have a home base.

The possibility of selling the property was a non-starter and found agreement from members on both sides of the political spectrum with democrat Herb Brooks noting that the building was “more valuable to us as a county” and republican Jim Moustis agreeing that “that property is way too valuable to us”.

Once completed, the new courthouse facility will be 10 stories tall and will include space for 34 courtrooms, law libraries, as well as office space. The site was designed to include enough facility space to accommodate up to 30 years of projected growth in Will County’s population.

The building will incorporate limestone from Joliet as well as steel elements reminiscent of the city’s bridges according to a representative from lead design firm White and Co.

The space also includes additional space for expansion on Washington Street.

Currently, the new courthouse has an estimated price tag of around $150 million. brock@thetimesweekly.com