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Local News

Joliet gives Preservation Award to USF

Student leave new St. Bonaventure Hall at the University of St. Francis' downtown Joliet campus in October. The university converted the old Mode Theater to an academic building, and it is being renamed after a donation has been made to the university.
Student leave new St. Bonaventure Hall at the University of St. Francis' downtown Joliet campus in October. The university converted the old Mode Theater to an academic building, and it is being renamed after a donation has been made to the university.

JOLIET – The city has given its annual Preservation Award to the University of St. Francis.

The Joliet Historic Preservation Commission recognized the university for its work on the Motherhouse on the USF campus and the old Mode Theater downtown.

The annual award was recognized last week in a resolution approved by the Joliet City Council.

The Mode Theater, built in 1908, was put back to use for USF classes last year and has been renamed the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center.

The Motherhouse, built in 1881, originally was home to the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, who founded the university. It also was the original location of St. Francis Academy, which evolved into Joliet Catholic Academy.

USF has worked at renovating the Motherhouse since 2005, and it now contains university offices, classroom space, a cafe and even student housing.

“The last piece [of the renovation] is going to be finished in the first week of June,” Elizabeth Laken, USF administration and finance vice president, told the City Council last week.

That last section is a small area being converted into offices, USF spokeswoman Nancy Pohlman said Tuesday.

“The Motherhouse has such significance for us. It’s the home of our founding congregation,” Pohlman said.

USF invested $2.7 million in the Mode Theater after being approached by city officials about the university’s interest in expanding its presence downtown, she said. USF previously moved art and design classes into the Rialto Square Theatre office building.

Pohlman noted that the City Center Partnership, which promotes downtown business, last year recognized USF as Institution of the Year for its renovation of the Mode Theater.

“We’re very happy that people are recognizing our efforts to help the city grow,” she said.

Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Kevin Heinemann said both projects are examples of adaptive re-use of historic buildings in town.

“We took a tour of [the Mode building], and it was beautifully done,” Heinemann said. “It’s a historic building, and it’s going to be preserved because of their efforts.”

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