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Forest Preserve District considers McKee House restoration costs

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 2:48 p.m. CDT

After finding the historic McKee House in Churchill Woods to be structurally sound, architectural design firm AltusWorks presented options to officials from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County to restore the house at costs ranging from $230,000 to $2 million.

The McKee House has a long history in DuPage County and served as the Forest Preserve District's first administration building. The house has since sat vacant for more than 10 years near the Glen Ellyn-Lombard border, sustaining significant water damage over time.

Stabilization of the structure is expected to cost $230,969. Additional costs will be necessary to prepare the house for public use.

After AltusWorks presented at the Nov. 19 Board of Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Tim Whelan, who represents the area of the Forest Preserve District that includes the McKee House, said he believes the projected costs are comparable to other restoration efforts the district has taken on in the past.

The project would likely be funded primarily by a nonprofit formed to support the restoration, similar to previous funding models used by the Forest Preserve District. There have also been instances when the district used part of its budget for rehabilitation projects, Whelan said.

However, not every board member was sure whether the restoration is vital to the Forest Preserve District.

"That's a lot of money," said Commissioner Mary Lou Wehrli, who represents District Five.

Public input gathered by AltusWorks at a meeting held Aug. 21 in Glen Ellyn indicated community members would be in favor of using the house as an assembly space or as adult education classrooms for local colleges.

Groups in the area have supported the restoration, including Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation, which previously fought against district plans to demolish the home. Funds that would have been used to support demolition instead paid for the study by AltusWorks to evaluate the viability of restoring the house.

"The building is very well-suited for adaptive reuse for the uses the community would like to see," said AltusWorks Founder Ellen Stoner.

The house's most significant issues include the need to replace the roof, install new utilities and eliminate the dangers of mold and lead paint.

Beyond stabilization, rehabilitation options include restoring the first floor of the building for either business or public use. This would cost about $1.35 million or $1.45 million, respectively. The public assembly option would include the same work as what would be needed for business use, along with additional items, such as converting the garage to a catering kitchen.

Rehabilitating the entire house for public use would cost more. Full building reuse work for the classroom option would cost about $1.9 million. The assembly possibility would cost $2 million.

Whelan said he favored starting off with an option to restore the McKee House's first floor access.

"Once you get somebody in there with first floor accessibility, and they're showing what can be done, then you can also look at what more you can do there," he said.

Next steps include establishing a group of people interested in fundraising for the project before the Forest Preserve District Board of Commissioners votes on any specific options.

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Projected costs

Stabilization: $230,969First floor access – business: $1,351,823First floor access – assembly: $1,448,710Full building reuse – business: $1,916,799Full building reuse – assembly: $2,043,712

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