West Chicago officials table Wiant demolition, community center steps up as buyer

WEST CHICAGO – Things are looking up for the historic Joel Wiant House in West Chicago, as city efforts to demolish the home were recently halted when local community center officials offered to purchase it.

Representatives from the Wayne and Helen Fox Community Center in West Chicago had previously expressed interest in the house but didn't want to get in the way of any private developers looking at the property.

However, since the city has yet to enter into a contract with any entity to purchase the Wiant House, the community center has again come forward, delaying plans to demolish the 144-year-old home in the Turner Junction Historic District.

"We have reached out to you and offered this service in the chance that you do not have a viable developer willing to do that," center President Dave Sabathne said at a city Development Committee meeting Aug. 12, at which the demolition request was tabled.

The Wiant House, located at 151 W. Washington St., sits on a 14-acre parcel of land that has been identified by the city for development.

The community center plans, however, would include only the purchase and restoration of the house itself. The center has about $400,000 budgeted for the project.

First steps would include stabilizing the structure and bringing it up to code, Sabathne said. After that, he hopes to restore aspects of the home's historic architecture that have fallen into disrepair and renovate the building for private use.

The goal is eventually to sell the house to a private owner, but the center will find tenants to rent possible apartment and office space in the meantime, said Sabathne, who added the center will seek public input throughout the process.

While developer Town Builder Studios of Riverside had shown interest in the property in the past, city staff members are not presently in talks with the firm, said John Said, director of community development.

Until a formal contract is developed with a buyer, staff may speak to anyone with interest in the house, Said said.

"We have that kind of flexibility available, and that's a good thing," he said.

When West Chicago Alderman James Beifuss made the motion to table the city's demolition request, he suggested city staff take 60 days to work with the community center on a contract and then seek bids on the remaining 14 acres of land where the Wiant House sits.

Sabathne said he hopes to come to an agreement with the city as soon as possible so the center can get to work on the house.

"We will be on top of it tomorrow and say, 'Let's get a draft agreement, let's work through this day in, day out, let's get this thing done in a hurry, so that we can get some work done,''" Sabathne said.