March 20, 2013 – The Herald News – The city is talking with a prospective developer for the old Joliet prison on Collins Street.
Mayor Thomas Giarrante described the potential deal as “preliminary.” But he was confident enough in the prospect to announce it during his State of the City address Wednesday.
“We have someone who is very interested in that prison,” he said. “He has some great ideas. But first we need the state of Illinois to turn that property over to us so we can work with that person.”
Giarrante would not elaborate on the prospective development later when asked for details. But the city would have to have some confidence in the prospect if it is willing to take over the aging prison from the state.
The mayor said Joliet would not take the prison wihout an agreement in place with the developer.
The city for several years has been looking for a developer willing to take the prison and redevelop it for a bed and breakfast, shopping area, or tourism attraction that would capitalize on public interest in the historic structure.
At issue for the city is the risk of taking over a 19th Century prison and then being left with the costs of maintaining it. The state closed the Joliet Correctional Center in 2002, and it has been deteriorating since then.
The city wants a developer ready to take ownership of the prison, renovate it, and put it to new use, said James Haller, director of community and economic development for Joliet.
“We’ve made overtures to get the property,” Haller said. “The problem we have is we don’t have the money to maintain it right now.”
Read more about ULI Chicago’s Joliet Correctional Center Redevelopment TAP conducted in January 2012 outlining recommendations for redevelopment of the prison and the vacant U.S. Steel site.