Elgin City Council votes against making David C Cook building a landmark
The nearly yearlong landmark saga surrounding the David C Cook building came to an end Wednesday as the Elgin City Council voted 5-4 against the designation.
The designation of landmark status was recommended by the Elgin Heritage Commission by an 11-0 vote in early October after it determined the 119-year-old neoclassical office building in the city's historic district met nine of the 11 criteria. The issue had been sent to the commission by the council in January.
The council avoided setting a precedent of landmarking a building against the owner's wishes as the David C Cook company, now based in Colorado, strongly opposed the move.
The fate of the office building at 850 N. Grove Ave, which has been vacant since 1994, can now be decided by the company without the complications that landmark status would confer. The company still uses some of the warehouse space behind the office building for distribution of its Christian publishing products.
CEO Cris Doornbos, who said the company has been pursuing development opportunities for the property for 15 years, said there is new hope.
"Another significant, sincere, credible and current opportunity is now in front of us, and their interest is high," he said during his comments to the council. "But if we get a 'yes' vote tonight, that idea is off the table in the morning, and I would regret that tremendously."
A company spokesman declined to say who the potential suitor is but said Doornbos was "pleased with the outcome of the vote."
The company agreed to put off demolition of the building for six months while it pursues this and other options. The company also said it will immediately begin work to stabilize the roof, which has recently fallen into further disrepair.
The issue required a supermajority of the city council to pass, meaning six "yes" votes were necessary. Council members made it apparent from their comments that the outcome of the vote was a foregone conclusion.
Councilman Baldemar Lopez, who was one of the four members to vote for landmark status Wednesday night, said, "I understand my voting for landmark status may be symbolic, but I also have to listen to the members of the community and understand how important historic preservation is for the people that live in the historic district."
Council members Corey Dixon, Carol Rauschenberger and John Steffen also voted for the landmark designation.
Councilwoman Tish Powell, who voted to send the issue to the Heritage Commission in January but voted no on Wednesday, said that "unless the city of Elgin is willing to purchase this property or contribute significant dollars, as we did with the Tower Building, to help ensure its redevelopment, it would be irresponsible of us to saddle the DC Cook property owner with this designation."
Mayor David Kaptain said he voted no this time for the same reasons he voted yes in January.
"Irony is never lost on me," Kaptain said. "On the same project I'm going to vote yes and no with the same goal in mind: that you have time to make this work out."