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Barber Building in downtown Joliet being converted to apartments

The Barber Building on Chicago Street in downtown Joliet is being renovated for apartments.
The Barber Building on Chicago Street in downtown Joliet is being renovated for apartments.

JOLIET – The Joliet City Council on Wednesday will consider a special-use permit allowing 35 apartments in two downtown buildings on Chicago Street.

The project includes the Barber Building, a five-story, brick and stone structure at 66-74 N. Chicago St. and a neighboring three-story, brick building at 76 N. Chicago St.

Downtown residential developer Mike Petry, who converted the old Universalist Unitarian Church building into condominiums and apartments, is doing the Barber Building project.

Work already is in progress at the buildings.

According to a staff memo included with the City Council meeting agenda, Petry "is currently in negotiations with the city on a redevelopment agreement for both buildings."

A proposal in which the city would loan $950,000 to support the rehab project was on the agenda for a City Council Economic Development Committee meeting last month but was pulled before the committee considered it.

Joliet Economic Development Director Steve Jones at that meeting, however, said the city may have to begin considering loaning money upfront on residential rehab projects downtown.

Jones at the time said there were two residential projects downtown in which banks would not finance redevelopment because the cost of renovations were higher than the assessed value of the buildings.

“That’s a dilemma I see out there, and I think how it plays out depends on our willingness to take on some of this risk,” Jones told the committee at the time.

Committee members said then that they would consider such proposals on a case-by-case basis.

City officials hope to attract more residents downtown, seeing it as a key to generating business activity and revitalizing the area.

The Camiros plan, a downtown study done two years ago, called for housing for young people who were more likely to live in downtown environments and could provide a market for retail businesses.

The Barber Building plan provides 32 apartments in the 10,890-square-foot building, with offices on the first floor while some space would be converted to indoor parking, according to the staff memo. The neighboring 4,400-square-foot building would include three apartments with the first floor being used for retail space.

The Zoning Board of Appeals has recommended approval of the special use permit for the project.

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