Woodstock courthouse plans on deck
Woodstock has received a report from Rockford-based Gary W. Anderson Architects & Associates identifying short-term and long-term needs and goals associated with Old Courthouse Building, 101 N. Johnson St., which is owned by the city of Woodstock.
While the city has yet to release the report, the Woodstock City Council and the Historic Preservation Commission will receive copies in the near future before hosting a joint meeting to discuss future plans for the building.
City Manager Tim Clifton said no official meeting date has been determined but said the meeting is likely to take place after the council’s next two meetings, scheduled for July 17 and Aug. 7. While he did not get into details of the report, Clifton said the document includes its own capital improvement program listing.
One of the first issues the council and HPC will likely discuss is the garage at the rear of the property, which is in a state of disrepair.
In April, the city filed a certificate of appropriateness to demolish the garage, which was built in 1925.
A COA will not be granted, however, until the HPC has a chance to view the report in its entirety and discuss it with the city.
“The structure has been neglected for many years,” the COA request stated. “Roof boards have rotted thro
ugh, the lintel over the garage doors is rusted and warped and has separated from the masonry, and the masonry is cracking.”
In the COA request, the city reports that Gary W. Anderson Architects & Associates recommended the removal of the garage.
“There is much repair work that will need to occur on the west wall of the courthouse and the south wall of the sheriff’s house/jail,” the COA request stated. “A leaking water line also runs through the space behind the garage.”
Allen Stebbins, chairman of the HPC, said he did not want to start piecemealing the work without having a clear understanding of the report. Commissioner Erika Wilson said she worries that demolishing the garage would set a precedent for the rest of the building.
Commissioner Craig Hallenstein, however, called the garage a safety hazard and said it needs to be torn down. He said the removal of the building would give a view of the original two buildings as they were when they were first built.
While the garage is certain to be at least part of the discussion, there are a number of goals Mayor Brian Sager pointed toward as a result of the joint meetings.
The council and commission also will look at immediate needs and potential grant opportunities to fund some of the improvements that are the most critical. Sager said the establishment of an anticipated time frame for the improvements as well as an extension of a request for proposals from a private entity would be a goal, since the city ultimately wants to transfer the property to a viable private entity. Finally, he said the council and commission would discuss a procedure to accommodate public input regarding future uses of the building.
“We’ll be taking a slow progressive approach to all these things,” Sager said, during his State of the City address in May. He said an RFP is likely at least 18 months away, but even that estimate is tentative. In addition to financial constraints that will keep progress on the building slow, Sager said the city wants to take its time to determine the highest and best use for the property. “It’s going to take time. We’ve accomplished a lot, but there is a lot yet to be accomplished.”