Elgin council will consider forcing landmark status on 119-year-old building

  • Elgin council members Corey Dixon and Carol Rauschenberger are prompting a discussion about nominating for landmark status the vacant, neoclassical style building at 850 N. Grove Ave. that belongs to the company David C Cook.

      Elgin council members Corey Dixon and Carol Rauschenberger are prompting a discussion about nominating for landmark status the vacant, neoclassical style building at 850 N. Grove Ave. that belongs to the company David C Cook. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/21/2020 6:07 PM

In an attempt to save a building dating back to 1901, two Elgin City Council members are prompting a discussion about nominating it for landmark status, against the wishes of its owner.

Councilman Corey Dixon, with the support of Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger, requested the item be placed on the city council agenda for Wednesday. The vacant, neoclassical style building at 850 N. Grove Ave. is part of the city's history and it's important to preserve that, they said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The building belongs to Colorado-based David C Cook, a Christian publishing company that on Jan. 14 applied via a local contractor for a demolition permit. The city has requested additional information for the application, city officials said.

Meanwhile, if council members vote "yes" Wednesday, the building would be protected from demolition until the landmark nomination process is complete. That includes review by the city's heritage commission and a final vote by the city council. Landmark status also would protect it from demolition.

David C Cook CEO Cris Doornbos said he's not in favor of that. "I don't see it as a good solution for the neighborhood, the city of Elgin or for David C Cook. This would become a significant financial burden for all involved over the long haul," he said.

The company is "sad to lose a part of our physical presence and history on Grove Avenue" but the building must come down, Doornbos said. "There are stewardship issues for David C Cook as an organization and safety issues for our staff that could lead to safety issues in the neighborhood," he said.

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The building is on an 8-acre property with rows of warehouses in back. If the building is demolished, the company will continue to use the warehouses, which will be visible from the street.

Doornbos said it would be better to turn the entire property into housing or mixed housing/retail, but the company -- which is willing to relocate in Elgin -- has tried to find a developer for 15 years with no success.

Doornbos pointed out the company had an agreement in 2006 to move near Randall Road and sell the entire property to a developer who wanted to demolish the buildings and build condos and single-family homes. But the Northeast Neighborhood Association and local residents opposed it, and the developer withdrew the proposal.

"I would still like to see something like that happen," Doornbos said.

NENA President Eric Larson said he informed David C Cook's COO Scott Miller last week that a Chicago-based developer is interested in the property.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

However, Doornbos said, "No one here at David C Cook is aware of any interest in this property."

David C Cook had planned to demolish the building in November but agreed to wait until this month after discussions with the city and NENA. The city then offered to pay $30,000 to David C Cook to offset maintenance costs if the company agreed to postpone demolition to 2021. Doornbos didn't say why the company didn't take that offer.

"We have found no viable alternatives, and none have been presented to us," he said.

NENA hoped demolition would be postponed to have more time to work on development plans, Larson said. The neighborhood group values property rights but the landmark nomination is still "an appropriate use of the municipal code," he said.

"I think people need to know this is not our starting point, this is a last resort," Larson said.

Doornbos said he understands and shares residents' disappointment at the prospect of losing the building. "We've been a part of this neighborhood for almost 120 years. We still care about this neighborhood and the city of Elgin."

If the building gets landmark status, the city would have to become an "intentional," active partner in soliciting developers' interest, Dixon said.

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