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Local News

Joliet Junior College to close banquet facility

Outside caterer could reopen venue in 2016

JOLIET – Joliet Junior College will close its banquet facility in the Joliet Renaissance Center Ballroom at the end of the year.

But the venue could come back under an outside caterer when it reopens in 2016, JJC President Debra Daniels told the Joliet City Council at its Monday pre-council meeting.

"It will still be a ballroom, but it will come back in a different way," Daniels said.

Daniels updated the council on improvements at the college, specifically the City Center campus that will replace the current classrooms housed in the former Sheraton Hotel, which is attached to the north side of ballroom.

"The hotel will be torn down and leveled for parking," Daniels said. "The ballroom will stay."

The ballroom banquet facility, operated by JJC staff and students, is losing about $300,000 per year, Daniels noted.

"It's hard to justify keeping it open," she said.

The banquet center employs three people.

The ballroom has long been home to the Joliet Rotary Club. It also catered out to other clients. Those services will end after 2014.

The Renaissance Center, however, will continue to serve buffets and special dinners prepared by JJC Culinary Arts students.

The entire ballroom will be remodeled in the future in conjunction with the school's City Center project, Daniels said.

The core and shell of the college's new six-story, 96,000-square-foot building at Chicago and Webster streets are now complete, Daniels said. The building will house the adult education and literacy department, workforce development and the culinary arts program.

The project will cost $58 million altogether, with $25.5 million promised by the state. JJC is still waiting for the state to release the funds, but is prepared to go it alone if necessary using its own funding, Daniels said. "If not, we'll build it out ourselves," she said.

The 89-year-old building at 214 North Ottawa Street has changed hands several times.

The building, which features a blend of Spanish and Italian architecture, was designed by the Chicago architectural firm of D. H. Burnham and Co. It was built in 1925 by J.B. French Company of Chicago, the same company that built Joliet's Union Station.

It was originally designed as a social hall for the 1,500-member the Joliet Chamber of Commerce.

In 1945, it was purchased by the American Legion Harwood Post No. 5.

In 1957, it was purchased by restaurateur Earl D'Amico and his brother, who converted into an upscale restaurant/banquet/entertainment facility. D'Amico later built the Sheraton Hotel adjacent to the property.

JJC took over the property in June 1980, and rechristened it as the Joliet Renaissance Center.

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