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Will County Courthouse demolition ahead of schedule

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After nearly four months, the former Will County Courthouse in downtown Joliet is a shell of its former self.

“The building is actually coming down considerably easier than originally thought,” said Bill Fern, director of facilities.

The courthouse is expected to be at grade next week, and then concrete and other construction debris will be hauled away, said Dave Tkac, the director of capital programming.

The basement foundation will be demolished and then backfill will be brought to the site to bring it up to grade, he said.

“It’s on schedule,” Tkac said. “It’s looking good. We anticipated finishing in July. We hope to do a little better than that, and we are on track to do better than that.”

Demolition work underway Feb. 17, 2024, at the former Will County Courthouse. (Brett Johnson/Daily Southtown)

Brett Johnson/DailySouthtown

Demolition work underway Feb. 17, 2024, at the former Will County Courthouse. (Brett Johnson/Daily Southtown)

Work on the basement, which at one point served as the county jail, is expected to take about a month, said Mike Theodore, spokesman for the county executive’s office.

Demolition crews began tearing down the former courthouse, 14 W. Jefferson St., in December.

The courthouse closed in November 2020 when the new courthouse opened down the street.

The Will County Board in 2019 approved demolishing the building after officials determined that renovation work would be too costly.

The basic skeleton remains at the former Will County Courthouse in downtown Joliet. (Michelle Mullins/for Daily Southtown)

(Michelle Mullins/for Daily Southtown)

The basic skeleton remains at the former Will County Courthouse in downtown Joliet. (Michelle Mullins/for Daily Southtown)

For nearly two years, some local residents, developers, preservation groups and elected officials pushed to save and repurpose the courthouse, but those efforts ultimately failed.

American Demolition Corporation of Carol Stream was awarded a nearly $1.5 million contract last fall to demolish the building.

Site restoration will occur in late April or early May, Theodore said.

A grass space will be created on the south side of the site, and the concrete plaza on the north side with its historical statues and plaques will open to the public while the county board decides the future of the site. Anything beyond creating a level grassy area would have to be approved by the county board as part of its fiscal year 2025 budget, Theodore said.

The demolition is on budget and has had no change orders, Theodore said.

“The Facilities Department has been pleased with the progress so far,” he said. “The operation has been safe and timely.”

The Will County state’s attorney’s office has said the land donated for the courthouse stipulated that it remain a public use.

Demolition continues April 1, 2024, at the former Will County Courthouse in downtown Joliet. (Michelle Mullins/for Daily Southtown)

(Michelle Mullins/for Daily Southtown)

Demolition continues April 1, 2024, at the former Will County Courthouse in downtown Joliet. (Michelle Mullins/for Daily Southtown)

The county executive’s office is working with stakeholders on short-term possibilities for the site and long-term options, and any use has to comply with the public use mandates.

“I’m committed to ensuring that the decision we make for this property, at a key entrance to downtown Joliet, aligns with the priorities for both Will County government and the city of Joliet,” County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant said.

Janet Diaz, a Democrat from Joliet and chair of the ad hoc courthouse committee, said members are brainstorming ideas for the site once it is empty. One possibility includes ensuring it can become a destination area where people sit and have lunch. Another option would be to invite food trucks to the site. The committee is also considering using a piece of the rubble to convert into an artistic piece that can be displayed, Diaz said.

Michelle Mullins is a freelance reporter.



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