JOLIET – Crews took a 6,000-pound wrecking ball to the old Sheraton Motor Inn as part of a project by Joliet Junior College to redevelop the City Center campus.
But rubble from the demolition that began Monday may remain at the site in downtown Joliet for the time being, until a state budget is in place.
JJC President Judy Mitchell said the college can’t complete the redevelopment of the City Center campus without a state budget and needed capital funding.
“We all remain optimistic and hopeful all of our legislators will come together to adopt a budget that will benefit community colleges and K-12 across the state to allow us to move forward,” Mitchell said.
Over the years, JJC officials have discussed demolishing the historic building that has served the college’s workforce development and adult education students, to make way for parking. During talks of redevelopment in 2011, JJC trustees at the time said the hotel was an eyesore and wanted it gone.
Adjacent to the hotel is the new City Center building that opened in January. The six-story, 96,000-square-foot building houses the college's culinary arts program, workforce development, and department of adult education and literacy.
The Sheraton hotel operated between the 1960s and '70s until the college took over the property and the Renaissance Center in 1980.
Kelly Rohder, JJC spokeswoman, said in an email that the long-term plans for the Webster Street space near the hotel include a pedestrian mall and places to sit. The demolition, which is supposed to last about two weeks, is being led by Poulos Construction.
JJC has live footage of the demolition on its website.
Jack Foschi, with J.F. Demolition, was operating a excavator at the hotel site Monday morning. The crews already laid bare the northwest side of the hotel, with rubble piling up at the hotel’s entrance.
“I came after this job because this is where my dad hung out,” Foschi said.
The hotel is connected to the JJC Renaissance Center, previously D’Amico’s 214 that was owned by Earl D’Amico. The nightclub used to host Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Guy Lombardo, Tina Turner and other musical stars. The hotel was built to accommodate performers and patrons.
Foschi said his aunt and uncle were married at D’Amico’s 214 and that it used to be a popular hangout for people. As with the hotel, Foschi said his family has been demolishing buildings for decades, such as the Will County Courthouse in 1969.
“We’ve been wrecking here our whole life,” he said.
Besides demolishing the hotel, JJC officials also plan to acquire the property where Chicken-N-Spice, 251 N. Chicago St., is located. Rohder has said the college plans to honor the restaurant’s lease agreement with the owners of the property that will be up in 2022.