Plainfield Trustees: The Wrecking Ball Can Wait for Route 59 House
Village officials took another look at a request to raze a Route 59 home, but ultimately stuck with their decision to delay the project until the completion of visioning study.
Village officials on Monday made good on a promise to revisit a proposal to demolish a more than century-old Route 59 house — but the outcome was the same for the owner.
In August, trustees voted to deny a request to raze the house at 14927 S. Route 59, known as the Carey house, until the village’s Route 59 Visioning study (Vision for Division) is completed.
During Monday night’s Committee of the Whole workshop, the consensus of trustees was the same: to wait and see what the study says.
Speaking on behalf of his mother, who purchased the home in 1952 with her late husband, Thomas Carey expressed frustration over the continued delay.
Last week, Carey asked the village board to reconsider his mother’s request, saying the family would have more luck selling the property without the home. He said the building is structurally unsound.
But several trustees balked at allowing the Careys to tear down the home without a plan to develop the property. The family’s proposal is to demolish the house and sell the vacant lot.
Carey noted that, three months after turning down his mother’s request, the board voted to approve a similar proposal from the owners of the Overman-Jones Funeral Home, who asked to tear down another property along the same corridor to provide additional parking for the funeral home.
“This is a very frustrating situation for us, because you’ve put us in a financial bind with your inaction,” Carey said, adding the home’s condition is driving away potential buyers.
“People have come forward, they’ve said they like the lot; they don’t like the house,” Carey said. He added some potential buyers have expressed worries about dealing with the village and the Historic Preservation Commission when it comes to developing the property.
According to Village Planner Michael Garrigan, the house, which dates back to 1845, was identified as a potential future landmark as part of the village’s Historical Urbanized Core Survey. He described the home as architecturally and historically significant.
Carey said waiting for the completion of the Route 59 Visioning study has put a financial strain on the family.
“We can’t wait,” he said, adding that his mother is 91 years old.
Plainfield Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) Chairman Michael Bortel said the HPC recommended denying the family’s request to demolish the home, citing its historical significance.
“I think it’s a historic house,” Bortel said. “More historic than the house that Overman-Jones is tearing down.”
The home was built by George Harshbarger, a master carpenter responsible for building additional homes throughout the village, along with Plainfield United Methodist Church at Illinois and Chicago streets, according to a memo from Garrigan.
Bortel added he fears the demolition could be the start of a trend.
“If this house is torn down, what about … the house to the north and the house to the south? I think it could set a dangerous precedent with knocking down houses along Route 59," he said.
Trustee Jim Racich agreed.
“What we’re going to end up with is a giant strip mall” if the village continues to allow homes along the Route 59 corridor to be torn down, he said.
Trustee Garrett Peck, who voted against Overman-Jones’ request to demolish the home at 15205 S. Route 59, said his concern was remaining fair and consistent.
“What added value is this property owner going to have with a vacant lot versus a building?” he asked. “I don’t believe in different strokes for different folks … Once the [Route 59 Visioning] study is done I’d be happy to consider it again.”
Visioning project moves forward
The Route 59 Visioning project is aimed at developing a vision for the future of the Route 59 corridor from Main Street to Union Street and determining whether it should remain a business transition district (BTD) or be developed for higher-traffic commercial uses. BTD encourages property owners to convert homes to low-traffic businesses such as offices rather than demolishing them.
Originally, the study, which includes soliciting feedback from residents via social media, was scheduled to be completed in the fall. According to Garrigan, Phase 2 of the study is scheduled to be completed by late February or mid-March.
Trustee Dan Rippy said he understood Carey’s frustration.
“I do struggle a bit with telling families like the Careys, you’re going to lose your house because you can’t market it as you see fit,” he said, noting that even if the home is demolished, the village can make sure that whatever is built in its place fits with the rest of the business transition district. “In some ways, I think we may be better off building new that looks old” instead of restoring the aging property, Rippy said.
“I know you’ve been put off or stalled for over two years,” trustee Paul Fay told Carey, asking if he could wait it out until the study is completed. “Will six weeks make or break any deals?”
Carey agreed to wait it out, but was wary that six weeks could turn into an even longer delay.
“We’re willing to wait until mid-March,” he said. “But we don’t want to hear, it’s going to be April.”
Phase 2 of the Route 59 Visioning study will provide village officials with 3-D concepts of suggestions made during the first phase.
So far, more than 100 comments have been left on the Vision for Division website, with most residents agreeing that the Route 59 corridor should remain BTD, Garrigan said. Residents can view feedback left on the website and vote for their favorite concepts for the corridor.