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Revised Wiant House agreement sees support from city, community center

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 1:28 a.m. CDT

WEST CHICAGO – After an agreement that would save West Chicago's historic Wiant House went unsigned for more than a month, supporters of the home received some good news when a revised agreement passed the City Council's Development Committee Nov. 11.

With the committee's recommendation to approve the agreement, it is expected to head to the West Chicago City Council for consideration Nov. 18, said John Said, West Chicago's director of community development. At that meeting, aldermen will vote on whether to authorize Mayor Ruben Pineda to enter into the agreement with the West Chicago Community Center.

"In this case, the delay, I think, will truly provide us a benefit and give us the time to do the work the way that we'd all want it to be done," community center President David Sabathne said.

Key changes to the agreement include transferring ownership of the 144-year-old house to the community center before the work takes place and extending the project timeline from April 30, 2014, to July 31, 2014.

As previously proposed, the community center would have purchased the Wiant House after completing the work necessary to bring the structure's exterior into compliance with City Code. However, under that scenario, the community center would have functioned as the city's subcontractor. It currently lacks the necessary insurance to play that role, Sabathne said.

Having the center purchase the house before beginning construction shifts the liability from the city to the center, but ultimately, community center officials made the decision to change the agreement, according to Sabathne.

The center must post a letter of credit with the city for 125 percent of the estimated cost to correct the exterior code violations, showing it can complete the necessary work, Sabathne said.

With winter approaching, the extended timeline gives the community center more spring and summer months to complete the work. However, Sabathne expects improvements to begin before winter sets in.

Most exterior restorations will likely be completed by the original April deadline, with masonry work to be finished after that, Sabathne said. As part of the agreement, extensions may be made if necessary.

While the exact project cost is not yet finalized, it is expected to total about $350,000 to $400,000. The community center has spoken with subcontractors interested in the project, Sabathne said.

The community center will pay $10 to purchase the home at 151 W. Washington St., where exterior work will include restoration of the roof, walls, windows, decks and stairs, according to the agreement.

Interior plans for the Wiant House include office space on the first floor and housing on the second, with the goal of eventually selling the house to a private owner, Sabathne previously told West Chicago Suburban Life.

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.

"You'll be happy with the end result, I promise you that," Sabathne said. "We're very anxious to keep going on that."

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