The historic Joliet Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, will need at least $10 million worth of repairs in the next five years to stabilize six key structures within the long-closed complex.
The Klein & Hoffman architectural and structural engineering firm gave the estimates to shore up the prison’s administration building, east and west cell blocks, chapel, hospital and powerhouse smokestack.
Immediate repairs, or Level 1 fixes, needed for current walking tours would cost only $64,000.
Level 2 repairs that would cost $1.92 million would mean access through the administrative building’s main north/south corridor or the west corridor to the west cellblock. The east and west cellblock would have access to the main level only and no access to the stairs or upper levels. The hospital would have access to the first and second floors only. Level 2 fixes would restore full access to the chapel.
Other fixes in the next one to three years would require $3.3 million worth of work. In three to five years, it would mean another $5.5 million in repairs.
The entire report may be read here. It’s 123 pages, with lots of pictures of collapsed or cracked structures. It becomes apparent quickly why it’s going to cost so much to shore up the prison’s vital areas.
The Herald-News reported that local officials aren’t daunted by that number.
“We have no expectation that the City or JAHM will have the resources to accomplish all restoration efforts mentioned,” states the staff memo to the council. “However, we do have expectations that a combination of State resources, foundation grants, private donors, tour/event-generated revenues and continued volunteer resources will allow for continued progress on achieving the ultimate goal of making this site the Alcatraz of the Midwest.”
The memo also states the city holds no plans to do anything with the unsafe areas of the prison and will simply avoid them during walking tours like it already does. It will look for revenue sources “from outside sources” for the recommended fixes, plus prison-generated revenues. Tickets for prison tours may be purchased here.
The report will be given to the Joliet city council during its regular meeting today.
Joliet Correctional Center’s distinctive limestone walls were built in 1858, and the state of Illinois closed it in 2004. The city signed a five-year lease with the state in December 2017 to use the prison.
The city seeks to eventually open a hotel, restaurants and gift shops in the prison grounds. The prison remains a popular photo op for Route 66 travelers.
The prison has been used in many film and television productions over the years, but it remains best-known for the opening scene of 1980’s “The Blues Brothers.”
The old Joliet Correctional Center shouldn’t be confused with Stateville Correctional Center, which sits in nearby Crest Hill, Illinois, along Illinois 53 (aka Route 66) and still is being used for its original purpose.
(Image of the Joliet Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, by JymPolranges via Flickr)