Plans to build a new Will County courthouse took a significant step forward Thursday as county Executive Larry Walsh signed an agreement with First Midwest Bank president Jim Roolf to buy the bank building on the southwest corner of Ottawa and Jefferson streets in downtown Joliet for $4.06 million.
The sheriff’s department will move into the building this fall, but it eventually is to be torn down to create space for a new courthouse, across the street from the current courthouse, said Nick Palmer, Walsh’s chief of staff.
The First Midwest Bank building was identified as a prime location for a future justice campus when a facility-needs study was conducted last year.
The county is to close on the deal this summer, after many years of negotiations.
Chief judges have complained for years that the current courthouse at 14 W. Jefferson St., built in the late 1960s, is overcrowded, outdated and poses security risks. They warned they could order the county to build a courthouse if nothing was done.
The county board in August created an ad hoc committee to begin planning for the new courthouse, and in March hired Darien-based architectural firm Wight & Co. to do the preliminary analysis and design.
Keeping the courthouse in downtown Joliet is a priority.
“I am proud to sign this agreement today to move forward on a vision for a modern and accessible county justice campus,” Walsh said in a press release. “I know it has been a priority for Chief Judge Richard Schoenstedt to build a new courthouse that will accommodate the needs of our residents now and well into the future. With this action, we are taking another step forward.”
“With the acquisition of the First Midwest building, Will County will be able to give its residents what they deserve: a safe, modern courthouse,” Schoenstedt said in the press release. “We have outgrown our current courthouse by nearly a half-million residents and we need a new courthouse that will accommodate our growing population, which is projected to reach 1 million people in the next 10 years. A new courthouse will be completely in compliance with the safety standards that have been set forth by the Illinois Supreme Court.”
“This is truly a win-win situation for First Midwest Bank, the city of Joliet and Will County,” Roolf said. “As the banking industry has changed, so have the physical needs of our institution.”
The county also recently bought the former Social Security building on Scott Street in downtown Joliet, as officials try to consolidate county offices, provide more space and reduce lease payments.