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Local News

Joliet officials will assess condition of Collins Street prison

Joliet city officials will tour the old prison on Collins Street next week to assess its condition. The city has considered taking ownership of the deteriorating prison.
Joliet city officials will tour the old prison on Collins Street next week to assess its condition. The city has considered taking ownership of the deteriorating prison.

JOLIET – City officials get the tour they've been asking for next week when they get inside the old Joliet prison on Collins Street.

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk announced Wednesday that the state has authorized the visit, which could be a prelude to future city ownership of the deteriorating limestone prison made famous in the movies and a potential destination spot for travelers.

"Next week, we're going to walk through the prison," O'Dekirk said at the city council meeting. "We're going to try to get a quick assessment of what needs to be done to stabilize it."

Former City Manager Jim Hock and Joliet Area Historical Museum Director Greg Peerbolte have recommended joint city-museum ownership of the prison.

City council members in May said they were reluctant to pursue such a deal because of the potential costs of rehabilitation, which were estimated in 2014 at $3.8 million just to stabilize buildings at the prison.

The idea of taking over ownership was put on hold as city officials sought state permission to get access to the property to assess its condition.

The tour is scheduled for July 13.

The prison closed in 2002.

The city is increasingly taking care of the prison, however, because of the state's neglect.

O'Dekirk said the city now is sending its own employees to the prison to cut down weeds along Collins Street, a job that the state had been doing after complaints were raised several years ago about the appearance of the facility.

"It's an eyesore," O'Dekirk said.

"Are we going to send the state a bill on maintenance for that property," Councilwoman Jan Quillman asked.

O'Dekirk said he was reluctant to push the issue, noting that the city is working with the state on a number of big projects in the area including the prospects of a new interchange off Interstate 55 near Interstate 80.

The state is potentially spending millions of dollars for highway and bridge improvements that Joliet would like to see done.

"I'm frustrated about it (the prison)," O'Dekirk said. "I think we all are. I just want to be prudent about it in dealing with the state."

Downtown apartments

In other business, the council approved a special use permit for 35 downtown apartments planned for the Barber Building at 66-74 N. Chicago St. and a neighboring building at 76 N. Chicago St.

Downtown residential developer Mike Petry is renovating the buildings.

Petry also is negotiating a redevelopment agreement with the city that could lead to city support for the project.

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