ULI Chicago was invited to present its findings regarding the redevelopment of the former Joliet prison at the Illinois State Conference of the American Planning Association held October 1-3, 2014 in Evanston. ULI Chicago Member, David Galowich, Principal, Madison Realty Group, Inc., who had served as the Chair for the ULI Chicago Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) for the Joliet prison redevelopment, participated in a presentation and panel discussion along with representatives from the City of Joliet, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), and Openlands.
The Joliet prison, closed in 2002, left behind almost 200 acres of mostly open land with unknown levels of environmental contamination and historically significant, but rapidly deteriorating buildings in a part of the City already struggling with years of disinvestment. ULI Chicago, through its TAP, conducted extensive outreach, including bilingual meetings, to engage local residents and forge new partnerships with government and non-profit organizations all committed to converting the former prison sites into a community asset. The TAP report recommendations provided a road map for leveraging these strategic partnerships and taking incremental steps towards redevelopment.
David Galowich and the other presenters emphasized that although redevelopment of the former prison is a challenging task with many obstacles, it also has many champions including elected officials, government and civic organizations, and community residents who are committed to redeveloping the prison sites for the benefit of the larger community. By continuing to work together and building on initial successes, they can turn the iconic prison into a community asset.
The panel did a wonderful job of engaging the conference audience, who lauded the community-driven efforts to preserve this important historic site.