Haunted house will be Collins Street Prison’s first tenant

Brock A. Stein | 1/31/2018, 10:38 a.m. | Updated on 1/31/2018, 2:05 p.m.
The City of Joliet will decide whether to approve its first 3rd party tenant for the former Collins Street Prison ...

A haunted house will be the first business to open in a portion of the old Collins Street prison in Joliet this year.

Evil Intentions, which operates another haunted venue in Elgin announced on Wednesday that it plans to be open by Halloween 2018.

The announcement was made on the website joliethauntedhouse.com and makes reference to some of the former prison’s notorious inmates which included serial killers John Wayne Gacy and Richard Speck as well as 1920’s crime duo Leopold and Loeb.

Deputy City manager Steve Jones said this week that a user agreement for the site’s first business would come before the council next week for approval.

In addition to approving a user for the former prison site, Jones said that the city was deciding on the regular dates for the meeting of the prison committee that will be chaired by city council member Bettye Gavin and will make decisions on the redevelopment of the facility over the coming months. He said that the first meeting for the committee should be in February.

Before the city signed a 5-year rent-free lease with the state to take over management and maintenance of the prison, Jones said that most planning dealt with analysis to find the best use but now would turn toward implementing plans. The Joliet Historical Museum will also be a partner in the planning for future uses as well he said.

The complex is divided by Collins Street in to east and west halves with the west side of the prison most likely the target for historical uses like tours. Jones said that the city and museum would be working to make sure that structures there are “safe to wander” through in order to give visitors “the prison experience” and a sense of how the site was used for over a century.

The east side of the campus is being eyed for commercial uses that could include entertainment venues, food service, hotel and banquet facilities similar to the vendor agreements that the city struck for the former Union Station that has resulted in its re-appropriation as a banquet hall and craft brewery.

Joes said that the city hopes to get long-term commitments from vendors who will make improvements and help preserve the buildings at the site and could result in more economic development for that part of the city, more job creation, and an increase in visitors along the old Route 66.

“This is the ultimate experience to have prison tours and perhaps stay in the prison,” said Jones.

“There is money to be made here by the private sector and to do something unusual.”