Debate Over the Old Nichols Library Continues

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In May, developer Dwight Avram introduced plans to change the property that houses the Old Nichols Library, prompting several community members to file for local landmark status on the building – something Avram does not support.

Those with the group “Save the Old Nichols Library” recently held an open house to rally people behind their cause. Many came to show their support, while others came to learn more about their attempts at preservation.

“I think what we want to see first and foremost is that the building is preserved as is, that it’s not disassembled and then pasted on to the front of this four-story building,” said Charlie Wilkins, one of the people who filed for the building to receive landmark status.

On hand was Mayor Emeritus George Pradel, who was mayor when the property was first sold to Truth Lutheran Church in the 90’s.

“I’m sorry that as the mayor I didn’t make that a historic building,” said Mayor Emeritus Pradel.

Those with “Save Old Nichols” hired the Association for Preservation Technology to do an assessment of the building, their analysis deemed that the structure needs over $300,000 in repairs, but this does not include any necessary updates to the interior, as they could not survey that area.

However, the developer’s assessment of the building indicates it needs nearly a million dollars in repairs, not including necessary work to deal with asbestos, mold and lead paint.

In an official response to the historic landmark application, Avram states:

“It may have been appropriate at some earlier date to have designated the property as a landmark. However, given the current conditions, economic challenges and fragility, that time has passed. The property has deteriorated and is now in poor repair. More importantly, the property is now in private ownership and the owner does not agree to have the property designated a landmark. It would establish a dangerous precedent to basically take the property from the owner without its consent.”

Mayor Steve Chirico weighed in on the issue, acknowledging that both sides raise valid points.

“Obviously it’s a beautiful historic building, and it is one of the few remaining buildings in our community, so it is important. But it’s in terrible disrepair,” said Mayor Chirico. “So it’s complicated, it’s not like it’s a city project that we can just make our own decision on. We have to respect the private property rights, and we have budget constraints and I don’t think that this is something that property taxes should be responsible for.”

The Historic Preservation Commission will hear both sides of the argument at their meeting on August 22, with City Council eventually making the final decision.

Naperville News 17’s Evan Summers reports.