Woodstock commissioners reject Old Courthouse co-working space feasibility study

WOODSTOCK – City officials are contemplating the future of the Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House on the Woodstock Square, but they aren’t sold on a proposal to study the feasibility of a co-working space.

The Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House Advisory Commission met last week to consider a proposal from Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies that would look at the potential for the co-working space. The three-phase study would cost $29,000 in total, although the city has the option to complete only certain phases.

The first phase, which would cost $9,000, would clarify whether the idea for a co-working space is worth pursuing further.

In April, the city received a grant to hire consulting firm Artspace to complete a future-use study for the properties. Artspace recommended the creation of a co-working space and also said the building could be used for microretail and art studio space in the courthouse.

The former McHenry County Courthouse and Sheriff’s House and Jail were built in the 1800s. Located on the Woodstock Square, the spaces were government buildings until the early 1970s.

The city of Woodstock took ownership of the buildings in 2011, and the city has spent more than $2 million stabilizing the deteriorating properties. Costs to get the spaces completely up to code and usable could top $5 million.

The commission voted, 4-3, against the proposal, but the members of the Woodstock City Council still might consider the item. Some commission members cited financial concerns as the reason for denying a positive recommendation.

“The expenditure is going to be $29,000, and it’s only addressed on possible usage,” commission member Lynde Anderson said.

He added that if the city was going to spend that much money, he would prefer that the study cover more ground.

Other commissioners said that studying potential uses for the building shouldn’t be a top priority. The question of who will own and manage the building needs to be addressed, said commissioner Jim Prindiville, who also is running for the Woodstock City Council.

The Artspace study recommended that the city retain ownership of the buildings but find an outside entity such as a nonprofit organization to manage operations.

He added that the work researchers would do in the first phase is unnecessary.

“Much of the information they are gathering early on in the study is readily known and available within the community,” he said. “I think the first thing we should do at this point is make an analysis of how ownership of the building is going to occur.”

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