St. Mary Carmelite Church up for auction
BY BOB OKON firstname.lastname@example.org September 21, 2013 9:40PM
St. Mary Carmelite Church, built in downtown Joliet in 1882, is a city landmark. But a plan to preserve the church structure by converting it to senior apartments has stalled. | Bob Okon~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 23, 2013 6:44AM
A developer who got St. Mary Carmelite Church for free with his plan to convert it to senior residences now hopes to sell it for at least $278,000.
Scott Henry, with Celadon Holdings, said that minimum price for an auction next month reflects the money put into the redevelopment plan, upkeep of the church and insurance costs since getting it in March 2012.
“We put a lot of money into the project,” Henry said. “We’re not going to make anything.”
The $278,000 price, however, is the starting bid that will be accepted. Celadon has an appraisal of the property, listing its value at $1.45 million.
Diocese Joliet officials will likely be interested in seeing what Henry gets for the church. The diocese gave it to him after being unable to find a buyer and while hoping to avoid a demolition of the historical limestone structure built in 1882.
Less than two weeks ago, Henry told The Herald-News that while the senior housing project was stalled for lack of financing, he still intended to move forward. He said Friday that the project will continue if Celadon does not get the minimum price at the auction, which will take place Oct. 23.
“We really believe in the project, and we believe there is a need for this type of housing in Joliet,” Henry said. “It’s a project that can happen. We just came to the conclusion that from a practical standpoint, getting to the finish line will be a very long process.”
Henry has the church on the market at a time when there has been a sudden increase in real estate sales in downtown Joliet, where the church is located at 113 N. Ottawa St.
City Manager Thomas Thanas said there has been a “major uptick” in sales, with three buildings changing hands in the past 30 days.
“We’re optimistic,” Thanas said of the possibility of a new plan for St. Mary Carmelite Church. “It’s been a good turn of events in the last 30 days with the three sales.”
Other downtown developments are believed to have spurred market interest. Joliet Junior College is building a new campus at the north end of downtown. On the south end, the city is building a transportation complex that will include new bus and train stations.
The old limestone church, unused for years, may pose more of a challenge for a potential developer. But a buyer would be under no obligation to keep the building.
The diocese was ready to demolish the church when Henry came forward with his plan, which appeared at the time to be a way to save the structure that’s still a prominent part of the downtown skyline and a symbol of Joliet’s 19th century origins. St. Mary Carmelite was the second Catholic parish in the city.
Diocese spokesman Edward Flavin, in an email, said the diocese tried for years to sell the church but could not find a buyer. Holding onto the property had become costly, he said.
“In some respects, we were concerned it was becoming an insurance hazard,” Flavin said. “As such, we were actually planning to tear it down. We had even begun talking to Joliet about the tear-down. When the developer expressed an interest, we were happy to provide the church to him for his project. This saved us the time and cost of the teardown.”
The church will be one of many pieces of property up for sale at the bid at the auction conducted by Inland Real Estate Buildings and Auctions. It starts at 7 p.m. Oct. 23 in a banquet room at the company’s office, 2901 Butterfield Road.
Inland also will conduct pre-auction walk-throughs of the church from noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 8 and from 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 17.
Henry said he will continue to maintain the building until new owners take over.
“We’re not looking to make a big windfall on this,” he said. “We would like to see positive development in downtown Joliet.”