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Local News

Landmark for St. Mary Carmelite in doubt

The front steeple of St. Mary Carmelite Church can be seen Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, in downtown Joliet, Ill.
The front steeple of St. Mary Carmelite Church can be seen Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, in downtown Joliet, Ill.

Landmark status for St. Mary Carmelite Church goes to the City Council for a vote Tuesday with mixed recommendations.

The Joliet Historic Preservation Commission last week recommended that the City Council give landmark status to the downtown church.

But interim City Manager Steve Jones is recommending that it doesn’t.

The mixed recommendation comes from the historic character of the 19th century church and the owner’s opposition to landmark status.

Jones in a memo to the council recommended tabling a vote while staff negotiates a “self-imposed restrictive covenant” that could prevent future demolition of the church.

Noting that the owner did not apply for landmark status, Jones said “such a practice raises concerns pertaining to private property rights, as well as a concern that involuntary restrictions imposed could be interpreted as a land taking.”

Michael Feldman, the second owner of the church since the Diocese of Joliet sold it, has been unable to redevelop the property and is trying to sell it.

The preservation commission voted, 8-0, for landmark status after a public hearing Tuesday.

“The church has been a visible landmark since the 1880s,” said commission member Candace Johnson, who initiated the landmark process.

“It has so much history and detail, and not just in the building, but what it’s meant for Joliet,” Johnson said.

The church at 113-119 N. Ottawa St. was built in 1882 out of Joliet limestone.

It was the second church for the now-defunct parish, which was established in 1868. The architect for the building, Patrick Charles Keely, was a prominent architect of Catholic churches whose designs include Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.

The last Mass at the church was celebrated in 1991, and the church has been in private hands since 2012.

Feldman is the second owner who has been unable to convert it to a new use.

City Planner Jayne Bernhard said the city is negotiating with Feldman for a restrictive covenant.

“The point of this is that the building can’t be demolished,” Bernhard said of the covenant.

“Whereas landmark status would provide more protection to the features of the building, this is more basic,” she said.

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