JOLIET – Another plan is in the works to redevelop St. Mary Carmelite Church downtown.
An unnamed developer plans to convert the church into residences and a restaurant, city officials said. The plan is to use the church sanctuary as a restaurant and banquet facility, while the priory would house residences.
City officials want to preserve the church, which the Diocese of Joliet once planned to tear down. St. Mary Carmelite Church was built in 1882 out of Joliet limestone. But it has sat unused for years and has deteriorated.
“It’s a beautiful, old example of Joliet limestone,” said Jim Haller, the city’s community and economic development director. “When you look at the Joliet skyline, it’s a prominent part of the skyline. So there are a lot of reasons for saving it.”
Joliet Mayor Thomas Giarrante said the city received an email from the potential developer that he has a loan for the project and plans to close on the acquisition in April.
“He likes the prospects downtown, with the transportation center and the junior college and with the University of St. Francis being down here,” Giarrante said.
The city is building a new transportation center downtown for train and bus commuters, while Joliet Junior College is expanding its downtown campus and the University of St. Francis has added classes in two downtown buildings.
This latest proposal, if it moves forward, likely would be marketed to a younger audience than the last one.
Scott Henry with Celadon Holdings wanted to turn the church into senior residences and planned to market the property with a Route 66 theme. City officials said the new developer is interested in the potential of a young professional market developing downtown.
Henry acquired the church for $1 in March 2012 from the diocese, which was looking to avoid demolition. Henry obtained a special-use permit from Joliet to build 40 apartments. But he could not get the federal tax credits he said he needed to attract investors.
In fall 2013, Henry put the church up for auction and sought a minimum bid of $278,000.
Henry still owns the church, Haller said.
Haller, who has met with the developer, said he wants permission before identifying him. Haller said it was not likely the city would need to approve zoning for the project to move forward.
The Scott Henry plan was opposed by the law firm Kavanagh, Grumley & Gorbold, which has offices next door and filed a lawsuit contending the city violated its density rules by permitting the plan.
Attorney Richard Kavanagh said he would need to know more about the new plan. But he has said the church building is unsafe and should be demolished.