Historic Huntley mill to be demolished later this year

Village officials finalize deal for redevelopment

HUNTLEY – Village officials could put to rest more than a year of debate over historic preservation in Huntley when they tear down a former 19th century mill as early as this summer.

The demolition of the late-1800s Sawyer-Kelley Mill in downtown Huntley was detailed in a redevelopment deal Village Board members finalized Thursday.

Trustees supported a plan in December to raze the old structure and build a $940,000 multi-tenant commercial space in its place. The redevelopment project – now headed toward construction – will be the first in Huntley’s long-term effort to revitalize the look of its historic downtown.

“We are looking for this to be a catalyst for redevelopment in the [downtown] area – to get things rolling,” Village Manager Dave Johnson said.

The village acquired the former mill in late 2012 for $115,000. The move immediately sparked a debate between Huntley officials and local ­historians, who feared the village would neglect preservation by demolishing the building.

The mill originally belonged to W.G. Sawyer and John Kelley, two businessmen who helped develop Huntley just after its incorporation in 1872.

As officials developed plans for the downtown makeover, Huntley received proposals from two developers last summer on the former mill. The Village Board ultimately turned down an offer that would have preserved the structure, but it required Huntley to foot the entire $816,120 project.

The agreement finalized Thursday, instead, puts the village on the hook for $340,000, which includes the costs to acquire the building. It also makes the village responsible for demolishing the historic building and improving the surrounding landscape.

Huntley officials expect the new 5,400-square-foot business space should have a high enough property value to eventually pay back the village’s costs, recouped through a special taxing district the board created last year for the downtown.

Lake in the Hills developer Billitteri Enterprises, meanwhile, will need to present design plans to the board before Huntley can close on the property and transfer the title. Billitteri also would have to lease 50 percent of the space before starting construction.

If the board process moves swiftly enough, the village could demolish the old mill and construction could begin on the new building by late summer.

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