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Local News

Joliet plaza plan includes garden, skating rink and more

Joliet plans to redo and expand the Van Buren Plaza into a larger downtown square that will include space now occupied by the former Will County State's Attorney's Office building in the background.
Joliet plans to redo and expand the Van Buren Plaza into a larger downtown square that will include space now occupied by the former Will County State's Attorney's Office building in the background.

JOLIET – Downtown Joliet would have a city square with a water fountain in the summer, skating rink in the winter and gathering space year-round, according to a plan presented to the City Council on Monday.

The plan will be presented in more detail at a public forum scheduled for April 18 at the Joliet Area Historical Museum.

“The public can come in and see. We will bring our models,” Ferhat Zerin, principal of Ginkgo Planning & Design said of the April forum.

Zerin said the firm was aiming big with its plans for the square and redesign of Chicago Street.

“This wasn’t just a beautification project,” she told the council. “We wanted to reposition the street and the square to something that is nationally known.”

The city is redesigning Chicago Street to make it more traffic-friendly as it prepares to open up the section of the street now blocked at the Will County Courthouse parking lot and create a direct route to Interstate 80.

Joliet also plans a square for large gatherings by expanding the Van Buren Plaza now located on Chicago Street across from the Rialto Square Theatre.

“We are primarily focusing on making this a very green plaza,” Zerin said. “Downtown Joliet does not have a lot of green spaces where you can gather all day and into the evening.”

Zerin did not include was a potential price tag for the project.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and the council did not comment on the presentation.

The City Council, however, is slated to vote Tuesday on bids for the demolition of the former Will County State’s Attorney’s office building on the north end of the plaza. The demolition will make room for the expansion of the plaza, which also would take space now used for library parking, as it extends to Clinton Street.

Features of the square would include a no-depth fountain that would be flat space when the water is turned off in the summer and could be used for a skating rink in the winter.

Zerin said the design includes five sections for the square:

• The Plaza, which would be directly across from the Rialto and include a red paver walkway connecting to the theater that Zerin described as “a red carpet” with the feel of “an extension of the Rialto”;

• The Library Garden directly across from the Joliet Public Library that Zerin said would be a “children friendly” area;

• The Lounge, which would be an area with seating;

• The Stage, which could be converted to a seating area when not in use;

• The Curtain, which would be a buffer area between the square and the parking deck to the west.

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