County anticipates loft development for S. Loop courthouse

  • Medill News Service
  • September 27, 2006 @ 2:07 AM
Chicago's former Domestic Violence Courthouse on South Michigan Avenue may be converted into a loft building, not demolished as anticipated by the Cook County Board.

Stan Sobieski with Concept Developers, Inc., which won board approval Monday to purchase the seven-story building at 1340 S. Michigan Ave., said the building will not be demolished but rather turned into residential loft space. He gave no timetable for the project, or any building specifications. Currently, the Chicago-based company is developing an 18-story high-rise on the adjacent lot. It also has residential developments in several North and Northwest Side Chicago neighborhoods.

The courthouse was purchased from Cook County for $4.25 million, an estimated $500,000 more than the appraised value. The board recently earmarked the money for possible renovation to the old Cook County Hospital, but no definitive plans have been confirmed.

The county opened a new $62 million Domestic Violence courthouse at 555 W. Harrison St. last year. There was an interest in preserving the former courthouse as an historical landmark -- but plans never materialized.

South Loop businesswoman and resident Elisse Cornell said she has mixed feelings about the project. She owns Pet Particulars, a pet grooming boutique, kennel and pet accessories store located directly across from the former courthouse.

"As a resident it's sad to see another historic landmark go," she said. "But as a business owner, it's good."

Once an economically stagnant area, new high-end building projects exemplify a new era of economic development sweeping South Michigan Avenue. Mayor Richard M. Daley is a neighborhood resident.

"The whole neighborhood has changed a lot over the past four years," Cornell said, citing rising property values and escalating rents. Those who bought low-cost property in the area only a few years ago are beginning to reap the benefits, she explained.

Cornell also admits that she will welcome a change in clientele. A new residential population could mean new customers for area businesses, she said.