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Route 66 News

Plan for closed Joliet church includes a Route 66 visitors center

The plan for a long-closed church in downtown Joliet, Ill., includes converting it into senior-citizen housing and creating a visitors center for Route 66 travelers, according to the Chicago Tribune and the Joliet Herald-News.

Developer Scott Henry on Wednesday laid out a $20 million plan for the St. Mary Carmelite Church. It will be renamed The Limestone Residences on the Mother Road, reported the Herald-News.

“Limestone” refers to the building materials in the church, and “Mother Road” refers to its location along the old Route 66, Henry told the Joliet City Council Land Use Committee.

“I have a personal love of Route 66,” Henry said. “I’m thrilled to be involved with this.”

His development team includes a historical researcher who’s tracking down information on churches along Route 66. Henry plans a visitors center, where Route 66 tourists might stop to learn about the church and surrounding area.

Henry said the church and its redevelopment will be featured in a book about churches on Route 66, reported the Tribune.

The Tribune reported:

Northbrook-based developer Scott Henry plans to turn the church, which was donated for the project, into 40 apartments for residents age 55 and older. Henry noted the project involves various partners, including social service providers, a property management firm and architects.

The apartments would flank either side of the church, allowing for the center area and domed ceilings to be preserved. Henry added the church’s limestone exterior – all made from Joliet limestone – would be refurbished to its original state. Henry even plans using a helicopter to lift the steeple off the tower so it can be repaired and then use a helicopter to replace it back on the tower. The only thing missing from the exterior will be the stained-glass windows, which were pulled from the building when the church closed.

Henry initially announced the senior-housing plan for the church in September 2011. The church has been closed for about 20 years.

Construction isn’t expected until sometime next year. Completion is projected for early 2014.

UPDATE 5/7/2012: The developer is asking that this petition be signed to support the project.

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