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West Chicago

Agreement must be signed before restoration of historic Wiant House begins

WEST CHICAGO – An agreement between the city of West Chicago and local community center officials must be signed before restorative work can begin on the 144-year-old Joel Wiant House.

With a unanimous vote from aldermen present at the West Chicago City Council meeting Oct. 7, Mayor Ruben Pineda now is authorized to enter into an agreement with the Wayne and Helen Fox Community Center to bring the exterior of the historic home into compliance with City Code.

Before either party signs the agreement, however, center officials plan to meet with city staff to clarify some aspects of the agreement to ensure it is as straightforward as possible, community center President David Sabathne said.

Once those clarifications are made, the document will be signed, and exterior work, such as restoring the roof, bricks and windows of the house, will begin, Sabathne said.

"We'll get an agreement signed as soon as we possibly can," he said.

Local preservationists such as Frank Fokta are awaiting those signatures before they declare the house to be safe.

"Things are looking good. They approved the agreement, but the agreement still needs to be signed," Fokta said. "Until both sides put ink to paper, we don't have an agreement. We're hopeful that we do."

According to the agreement, the Wiant House's exterior code violations must be addressed by the community center by April 30, 2014, although extensions may be made if necessary.

The agreement says that after the necessary repairs are made, the center will purchase the building for $1 from the city, and the city also will pay the center $1 for the work performed, making it an even exchange.

The center has about $400,000 available for the project, but Sabathne said he doesn't expect the center to spend the full amount. The center will likely spend about $300,000, he said.

Interior plans for the Wiant House include office space on the first floor and housing on the second, similar to the uses of the building in the past, Sabathne said.

The goal is eventually to sell the house to a private owner, but the center plans to find tenants to rent the office and housing space in the interim, he said.

Because the Wiant House is part of the Turner Junction Historic District, any exterior work will require approval from the Historical Preservation Commission, which previously recommended against the possible demolition of the home at the hands of the city.

The West Chicago City Council's Development Committee recommended approval of the agreement between the city and community center at a special meeting Sept. 19, advancing the agreement to the City Council for consideration.

"I think this is a great first step, and they did it in a timely manner," Sabathne said. "I was very happy about that and I hope that's a sign of things to come."

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