A historic mill building in downtown Huntley might be demolished to make way for a commercial development.
The village board recently authorized staff members to enter into negotiations with Lake in the Hills-based CSC Commercial Inc. The developer is proposing razing the 19th century structure, formerly the Sawyer-Kelley mill, and erecting a one-story, multi-tenant, 5,400-square-foot commercial building in its place modeled on the architecture of the late 1800s.
The 2½-story building at 11801 Main St. sits in the heart of town just east of the municipal parking lot, which wraps around the property to the south.
On the east side, a drive separates the lot from Parkside Pub.
Only two developers submitted proposals by a Nov. 1 deadline for redeveloping the property.
Board members unanimously supported a roughly $1 million redevelopment proposal, which would require a $330,000 investment from the village, including the $115,000 cost of purchasing the property, said Lisa Armour, Huntley assistant village manager
The second developer proposal called for rehabbing the mill for $816,120, funded entirely by the village, Armour said.
"The board's direction was to start negotiations with the developer that had proposed the demolition of the building," Armour said. "If things don't work out through the negotiation process, the board is not committed to that."
Local historians have been trying to save the former Sawyer-Kelley mill, built in 1892 and originally owned by local businessmen W.G. Sawyer and John Kelley who helped develop Huntley.
The building served more as a grain storage facility than for milling operations in the early years. It later housed the Huntley post office until 1957.
"We're disappointed ... we were hoping that it could be redeveloped in some way that could save the building," said Lonni Oldham, vice chairwoman of the Huntley Historical Preservation Commission, and a member of the Huntley Historical Society.
Oldham, a retired schoolteacher who grew up in Huntley, said there aren't too many historic buildings remaining in town.
"We have a historic downtown square. This is right on one of the corners," she said. "All around that square are buildings that are pretty original to the community."
Over time, the building housed offices on the main floor and basement, with a couple of apartments on the second floor.
Previous tenants included a law office, a real estate business, a barber shop and The Huntley Farmside newspaper.
The last tenants and businesses operating there -- a cash-for-gold business and a cleaning service -- left soon after the village purchased the building in 2012 as part of an ongoing effort to give downtown a face-lift.
An outside firm hired by the village determined significant work needs to be done to bring the building up to code.
"It wasn't a decision they made lightly," Armour said. "At the end of the day, with the design of the building that was proposed, the architect had done a lot of research into what Main Street looked like back in 1900. What they are proposing now, it fits in with the historical character of what the village was at that time."
A developer agreement likely won't be approved until the beginning of the year, she added.
Oldham said she and others hope some parts of the original mill could be salvaged, and perhaps incorporated into the new building.
"We'll have to see what's in there and work with the village and developers to see what we can do for salvaging and maybe incorporating some of that into the new structure," she said.