People tour downtown Joliet church up for auction
By Bob Okon email@example.com October 8, 2013 9:39PM
Devontae Beale, visiting from West Virginia, and Susanna Ibarra of Joliet look up to the high ceiling while walking through St. Mary Carmelite Church in Joliet during an open house Tuesday. | Bob Okon ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 10, 2013 6:27AM
The first of two open houses for St. Mary Carmelite Church brought out about a dozen people Tuesday, and some of those were just curious to see the inside of the downtown Joliet church that goes on the auction block later this month.
“I just wanted to look around. This is a historic building,” said Susanna Ibarra, who toured the church with Devontae Beale, visiting from West Virginia.
“I can tell you this much.” Beale said. “Even in the condition it’s in, this is very beautiful.”
Beale was able to look past the peeling paint on the walls and the fallen plaster on the floors of the church, which has stood at 113 N. Ottawa St. since 1882.
Whether a developer sees the same potential may determine whether the building is sold when it goes up for auction on Oct. 23.
Developer Scott Henry of Celadon Holdings acquired the church in 2012 with a plan to convert it into senior apartments. The Diocese of Joliet, unable to find a buyer and ready to demolish the building, gave the church to Henry.
St. Mary Carmelite, a limestone structure with a steeple that is a prominent part of the downtown skyline, ceased to operate as a church in 1991. The building continued to be used for a few years afterwards as a soup kitchen. But it essentially has been out of use for about 20 years.
Henry appeared to have a plan to save the church. But last month Henry said that he would sell the church after being unable to line up financial incentives needed for the redevelopment project.
Bidding will start at $278,000 in the auction being run by Inland Real Estate Brokerage & Auctions at a banquet room in its offices at 2901 Butterfield Road, Oak Brook. Henry said the minimum bid is designed to cover the costs he has incurred maintaining the church and trying to put together the apartment project.
Bob Edmiston, vice president with Inland Real Estate Brokerage & Auctions, said the people who came to the open house Tuesday included some potential buyers, along with a man who was baptized in the church in 1933.
“It was interesting to talk with him,” said Edmiston, noting he learned quite a bit about the church from the local people who visited.
Edmiston said there also were some interested, potential buyers among the visitors Tuesday. But, he expects most of the serious buyers to come out at the second open house, which is 2-4 p.m. Oct. 17.
Edmiston said he spread flyers around the downtown area last week encouraging curiosity seekers to stop by Tuesday. He expects the Oct. 17 open house to be more serious business.
Among those who stopped by Tuesday was Matt Campbell of Joliet who said the church is “nice” with “a lot of room.” But, Campbell said, the church interior is in worse condition than he expected.
“To redo this, I don’t know what it would cost,” Campbell said. “I don’t know if it would be feasible.”
Ibarra, however, said the church would be worth the effort of saving.
“If the right investors put money into this,” she said. “They could make it into something amazing.”