Huntley board wary of costs to renovate historic former hotel

HUNTLEY – Village trustees voiced concerns Thursday about Huntley’s financial commitment toward renovating an historic downtown property that architects have estimated could cost up to $300,000.

The Village Board met to discuss whether to support an agreement with Elgin-based Dewberry Architects to develop initial designs and renovation costs on the “Hackett House,” a two-story former hotel from the early 1900s. The village has wanted to convert the first floor of the house into usable office space.

The agreement alone could have ranged from $17,000 to $45,000, depending on the architectural services used. Dewberry earlier this summer assessed the former hotel for structural deficiencies and concluded that the conversion could cost in the $300,000 range.

Trustee Nick Hanson and two other members said they were uncertain about investing so much money into improving a property that has a hazy future.

“It seems like we are designing for something that we don’t know has a potential use,” Hanson said.

Village officials have said the converted Hackett House could be turned over to a business, used as a village welcome center or even small conference space.

The village purchased the former hotel earlier this year as part of its ongoing downtown revitalization effort. The two-story property features an enclosed porch that originally served as a resting stop for railroad visitors traveling through town.

Dewberry concluded that the former hotel was in satisfactory condition, but would require significant repairs to the exterior to bring it up to code.

Village Manager Dave Johnson told Hanson that officials were trying “to get the basics down” with the initial design to bring the historic property to a usable standard.

“We are not looking to turn the kitchen into a conference room,” Johnson said. “We can certainly work with you to come up with some options for the board to review on the first floor.”

The board ultimately decided to delay final approval on the agreement. Johnson said village staff will present other design estimates to trustees to give them a sense of other options that would still improve the property and prepare it for future office use.

Administrators also were hoping to finalize the property redesign to know how to budget for the actual construction of the project next year. The board begins its annual budget planning next month to get a spending plan in place by Jan. 1.

“That’s what we are trying to get at with this,” Johnson said. “How do we move forward in the 2014 budget and put forth a realistic dollar amount to get to the point ... where we are putting this out to bid?”

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