Little by little, the "clock tower" building at the corner of Lockport and Des Plaines streets is going back in time.
Gone is the pink façade of what used to be Café Orleans. Gone is the siding used to cover the distinctive brick archways. Gone are the walls that once divided the top floor into tiny cubicle apartments.
And what you can't see – the old plumbing, the antiquated wiring, the ancient furnace and air-conditioning units – is going away, too, developer Bill Habiger said.
Over the next year, Habiger expects to pour anywhere from $700,000 to $800,000 into renovating and restoring the two-story, three-storefront building to a semblance of what it would have looked like when built in 1898. Even the second-story clock in the round room that projects out toward Lockport Street will be replaced, Habiger said.
What the building will be used for once it's completed will be up to the tenants, Habiger said. It will likely be filled by restaurants and stores, in keeping with the rest of the Plainfield downtown district, he said.
That would be a welcome improvement, said Mayor Michael Collins, who noted that the Café Orleans storefront has been vacant for at least five years and what was the Clock Tower Antiques store has been empty for at least two.
"It's one of the last pieces of the (downtown) puzzle," Collins said. "It's a very viable building. I'm just sorry it was allowed to deteriorate."
The building has more of a pedigree than most would suspect. When first constructed, the second floor was an opera house, Habiger said. The entrance is off Des Plaines Street and the rooms that served as the ticket booth and the dressing rooms remain.
As the layers that covered the top floor have been stripped away, he's uncovered the "blue goose" painted walls of an old dance studio and two huge skylights, Habiger said.
For many years, the corner storefront was the Clock Tower Restaurant. And over the decades, all three 1,200-square-foot stores have had numerous tenants, including a dry cleaners and a tattoo shop, Collins said.
Habiger, owner of Lincolnshire Properties in Joliet, acknowledged that it can be fun to discover things that haven't been seen for years. But it's also a challenge as you bring a 19th century building up to the standards of the 21st, he said.
Habiger's torn down a portion of the building that stood behind the Café Orleans to make way for a parking lot. He plans to restore the top floor's tall windows that had been lowered and bricked over, he said.
This is not the first major downtown project for Habiger. He is also responsible for the building at 24047 W. Lockport St., which is anchored by Café Brulee and includes the offices of the Plainfield Area Chamber of Commerce and state Rep. Tom Cross.