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Article updated: 9/27/2013 9:12 AM

Huntley board weighing options for historic hotel

By Madhu Krishnamurthy

Is $300,000 too much to spend to restore a historic structure?

That's the question Huntley trustees are wrestling with as they evaluate options for the possible renovation of the Hackett House, a two-story former hotel from the early 1900s.

The village board recently met to discuss whether to hire Elgin-based Dewberry Architects to develop initial designs -- which could cost between $17,000 and $45,000. Some board members are questioning whether it's worth renovating the downtown property with structural deficiencies that the architects estimate could cost up to $300,000 to fix.

"That's too much," Trustee Harry Leopold said. "I can't, in good conscience, ask our taxpayers to spend that much money without some foreseeable return on that investment or use that the entire populace would be pleased with. We'd like to preserve it, if it's economically feasible. There's a limit as to how much taxpayers' money we can spend when it comes to a building that has no apparent income potential and no particular valuable use."

The village bought the former hotel, at Route 47 and Main Street, earlier this year as part of its downtown revitalization effort. The building has fallen into disrepair over the years.

Leopold said officials would like to see the hotel restored so the first floor could be used for office space.

"We bought the building so that we could have control of that particular piece of property at the entrance of our village," Leopold said.

Trustee Ronda Goldman said the location of the property is precisely why the village should invest in it.

"I happen to think it's a beautiful piece of property," she said.

Village officials have asked the architects to come back with better estimates on the cost of rehabilitation at various levels of potential use.

Goldman said she is not opposed to paying the architects for the designs and delaying the vote on renovation until the board has reviewed the range of options, from the most streamlined to all the bells and whistles.

"I have my own visions for it," she said. "I call it the gateway to Huntley."

Goldman says the building has the potential to house a winter farmers market, office space, a welcome center, or a home for the Huntley Historic Preservation Commission or Huntley Historical Society.

Leopold said all options remain open, including possibly razing the building. He questioned the value of even spending money drawing up designs.

"If the estimates for construction are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, why even spend the money for the architect," he said.

The board delayed final approval on the agreement with the architect, and has requested better design estimates from staff.

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