JOLIET – The new Will County Courthouse planned for downtown is being designed to reflect both Joliet's past and future, an architect told city officials Tuesday.
Jason Dwyer, senior project executive with Wight & Co., made a presentation to the Joliet City Council, which sees the courthouse as an integral part of future downtown development.
Dwyer told the council that the courthouse design uses limestone, a key part of Joliet's history, while also presenting a modern building for the city's future.
"This is a great opportunity here to build a building that can continue to be a catalyst for economic development," Dwyer said. "While we want to be respectful of the past and true to the heritage, we also want to have a forward-looking approach."
Several county officials attended the meeting that precedes expected votes this month by both the County Board and City Council on an intergovernmental agreement in which Joliet contributes $10 million to the project to ensure the courthouse stays downtown.
One County Board member called the agreement "the start of a beautiful relationship."
Dwyer presented artist's drawings showing a 10-story courthouse gleaming with glass along its horizontal facade while supported by stone on the sides. In front of the courthouse is a mostly glass building that would house the offices for court services.
An outdoor entry area to the buildings along with the use of glass should create a relatively welcoming atmosphere for a courthouse facility, he said.
"We're trying to make the court experience as comfortable as possible, knowing it's a high-stress environment," Dwyer said.
The new courthouse would be built just west of the existing Will County Courthouse on the former First Midwest Bank property.
Councilman John Gerl, who serves as the intergovernmental liaison working with county officials on the project, called the design "an A1 product for our downtown."
Gerl noted that the City Council is likely to vote Jan. 19 on an intergovernmental agreement in which the city would contribute $10 million over 20 years to courthouse construction and waive fees for building permits.
Will County expects to pay between $150 million and $160 million for the courthouse.
Will County Board Finance Committee Chairman Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, said the County Board also expects to vote this month on the intergovernmental agreement.
Several county officials were at the meeting, including County Board member Ragan Freitag, R-Wilmington, who said she expects both county and city to approve the intergovernmental agreement, and added, "I think this is the start of a beautiful relationship."
Mayor Bob O'Dekirk thanked both county officials and council members who have worked on the agreement.
"It's great to see two elected bodies working together to do this," O'Dekirk said. "And, we're not done yet. We still have to work on Chicago Street."
The city wants the county to give up a parking lot that now blocks Chicago Street from running directly from downtown to Interstate 80. Opening up the street is seen as key to downtown development.