Woodstock OK's Old Courthouse deal

WOODSTOCK – The city of Woodstock has agreed to accept the Old Courthouse as a donation with the goal of bringing the building up to code and working with a private entity to take over.

Still, the acquisition does not come completely free.

Associated costs are expected to be about $261,000, plus interest. This number includes $125,000 in outstanding taxes, $60,000 in legal fees of the current owners associated with the donation, and $25,000 in judgments against the building.

Mayor Brian Sager said he hoped that the numbers could be significantly reduced by working with taxing bodies to waive or abate the amounts owed.

For the remaining costs, because the building is within a tax increment financing district, the funds from the district can be used.

“The courthouse itself, a national historic landmark, does fall within the TIF district and the funds generated in the TIF district must be spent in the district,” Sager said.

“We do not have the liberty to take TIF dollars and expend TIF dollars in other parts of the community.”

There are other hurdles that must be cleared before the transaction could go through.

The city needs time to deal with liens against the property and ensure that it is receiving a clean title. Also, the owners do not want to make the donation unless the building has a value of at least $650,000, although the property’s fair cash value last was assessed at $1,519,911.

According to the Old Courthouse Arts Center’s website, the building at 101 N. Johnson St. was built in 1857. The sheriff’s house and jail building were added 30 years later and now house Le Petite Creperie & Bistro.

After the McHenry County Government Center was built, Woodstock residents Beverly and Cliff Ganschow bought the Old Courthouse in 1972, but the building now is owned by Centralia Investors.

If the city does not accept the donation, it is possible that the building will go into foreclosure. On Nov. 2, the City Council voted unanimously, with two members absent, to enter into the agreement, should all the conditions be met.

According to council minutes, the reasoning behind the city’s interest in the donation include protecting the architectural integrity of the building, keeping it up to date on current codes for public safety and welfare, and to ensure that it is a viable entity.

Aside from the galleries of the Arts Center, Le Petite Creperie & Bistro is the only other tenant in the building. While there is a provision in the agreement for the restaurant to continue as a tenant, there is no exception for the Arts Center.

“We wanted to absolutely preserve the opportunity for the Creperie because that is a strong, economically viable business which is associated with the Old Courthouse,” Sager said. “The other portion of the building, the Old Courthouse itself, we will have to look to the long-term and having a number of associated business entities with it. [The Arts Center] might be one of those entities.”

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