The facility will be vacant for about a year while the state secures the property, obtains appraisals and offers it to state-run agencies. Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard says he doesn’t believe there will be any state agencies interested in the property and it will be offered to the city.
He says several ideas have been floated ranging from using the vacated facility as a veterans home, to using the site for a new high school for District 117 although those are still just ideas for now.
“When the state comes to us and says 'City of Jacksonville, do you want this property?' we want to have a plan in place and we want to be able to answer that question...I mean the frontage alone on Morton Avenue from Diamond to the Chamber of Commerce office is good, prime real estate," says Ezard. "If we ever have our hands on that, that's good development where you could look at a private partnership or a public/private and get it on the tax roll and get it developed.
The 100-acre JDC and its multiple buildings are powered through a power plant on-site that the state will not upgrade to meet new EPA regulations. Ezard says it would cost $2.5 million to renovate the power plant.
“The city of Jacksonville does not want that power plant if we get that property," says Ezard. "That would be more or less a deal breaker in a sense."
He says the city will have discussions with Ameren Illinois to figure the cost to connect the JDC to the power grid.
Ezard hopes the state won’t be asking for any money when it offers the land.
“In fact, our vision is the state would maybe give us some money for economic development purposes since they kind of put us in this situation with the property right in the middle of town and a power plant that is under federal EPA mandated guidelines that is not up to snuff," says Ezard. "[The state] isn't going to pay the $2.5 million to get it up to snuff. Why have that burden again on the city when you're leaving all those buildings right in the middle of our town? We're going to be aggressive."
Ezard says the city may also look into obtaining Brownfield federal funds to help with the demolition of some buildings.
The JDC was shutdown in November. Governor Pat Quinn ordered to close the facility and many other state-run facilities that care for the developmentally disabled. Some advocates for the developmentally disabled have long argued that group homes are a better option than state facilities.