Committee votes against historic landmark proposal for Chancery building

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For three months, the fate of the Diocese of Rockford’s former Chancery has hung in the balance as community activists work to save the building.

On Monday, committee meeting ended as a step back for the residents trying to save the Chancery.

Although a number of residents, some alderman and the mayor spoke in favor of making the chancery, St. Peter’s School and the Convent historic landmarks. The Codes & Regulations Committee came at the decision from a different angle than the Historic Preservation Commission did at the previous hearing.

“The question was whether or not the government has the right to take someone’s private property,” Codes & Regulations Vice Chair Alderman Frank Beach said.

That’s the lens the Codes & Regulations Committee looked through when deciding to unanimously vote against recommending that the Chancery building, St. Peter’s School and Convent be designated as historic landmarks, making demolishing the buildings even more of a possibility.

“There was always a hope they would sell it,” Signal Hill resident Thomas Wise said. “Somebody would do something with it but it’s not going to happen.”

Residents have rallied behind keeping the 90-year-old Chancery, along with the school and convent standing.

The diocese says it looked into keeping the buildings during the decade the Chancery stood vacant, but say the decision to demolish comes down to money.

“Each time the studies have concluded the cost of renovation and putting that particular building into some kind of usable condition is not reasonable,” Patrick Winn with the Catholic Services and Catholic Charities said.

The diocese has said no to selling the properties because it wants to make sure what’s there benefits the neighborhood and the cathedral next door

“And the reason for it is because we then lose control over what could go onto that property and we don’t want to do that,” Winn said.

To people who live there, the buildings are said to be the heart of the Signal Hill neighborhood and even residents, like Thomas Wise, who haven’t been involved in the battle say they understand why neighbors are fighting to keep the structures.

“We’ve lost so much, especially when they put the circle in and all the businesses we lost and it’s just another nail in a coffin for Signal Hill,” Hill said.

Full Council will still vote on historic status. They will just do it without the recommendation from the Codes & Regulations Committee.

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