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Report suggests changes for Woodstock's Old Courthouse, Sheriff's House

Woodstock City Council to disscus next steps at Aug. 4 city council meeting

Northwest Herald file art
Opened in in 1858, Woodstock's Old Courthouse was home to McHenry County government and the courts system through the 1970s when the county moved operations to Route 47 and Ware Road.
Northwest Herald file art Opened in in 1858, Woodstock's Old Courthouse was home to McHenry County government and the courts system through the 1970s when the county moved operations to Route 47 and Ware Road.

WOODSTOCK – The historic Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House are the “literal front door to the community of Woodstock,” Ray Hartshorne said.

Hartshorne was panel chairman on the Urban Land Institute of Chicago’s technical assistance panel, which suggested steps for the city to take with the Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House that include stabilizing the properties, forming an advisory committee and transitioning ownership to a nonprofit organization.

The Urban Land Institute is a nonprofit that uses a panel of experts from the real estate development field to examine and find solutions to complex land use challenges. They published their final panel report on the city-owned Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House this week.

“They look at it from a practicality and feasibility standpoint with expertise that we just don’t have,” City Planner Nancy Baker said, “and so of them to be able to give us their response based on their background is just really invaluable.”

Damaged windows, a failing ceiling and inadequate HVAC systems were listed in the report as some of the “immediate challenges” to be addressed.

Work on the roof and dome of the Old Courthouse was completed in January.

The report estimated the cost to be about $1 million to address the critical needs of the buildings and stabilize them.

A complete renovation of the buildings could cost more than $5 million, according to the report.

Baker said the estimated cost for stabilization is about what she expected, and the final renovation budget could change depending on how the space will be used.

The report suggested the city use funds from the downtown tax increment financing district to fund the repairs, along with other available funds.

Baker said the TIF district is a likelihood for funding, and other funding sources have not been identified yet.

The institute came to Woodstock after the city received a $20,000 grant from McHenry County Community Foundation, and spent two days in Woodstock in March interviewing community leaders and gathering information on the properties.

A panel from the institute then presented their ideas in April, which included making the Old Courthouse home to a higher education institution and the Sheriff’s House a restaurant.

The report provided a potential floor plan for an educational institution in the buildings, which included rooms for institutional uses, event space and a restaurant.

City Manager Roscoe Stelford said the city council will go over the suggested steps and see how they want to progress at the Aug. 4 city council meeting.

The final report can be found on the city’s website.

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