The man behind the redevelopment of the historic former Kendall County Jail in downtown Yorkville says he sold the property which at one point appeared slated for demolition.
Yorkville City Council unanimously voted a deal in August 2019 to sell the 1893 building at 111 W. Madison St. to the development group of Peter McKnight, of Spartanburg, South Carolina, and its former business partner .
McKnight completed the renovation of the building in December 2021 and on Monday completed the real estate transaction selling the property, which it says was purchased by an Oswego investor.
“With good marketing, we were able to sell it for what we feel was a fair price,” McKnight told The Beacon-News.
The developer said the property sold for $1 million.
Regarding the historical aspects of the building, McKnight said he made sure “all elements of the prison were kept in place”.
It was a difficult site to market because there aren’t many such properties, McKnight said.
“The property was historically used by the government and required considerable work by appraisers to find something comparable,” he said.
The renovated site currently has five fully leased apartments and a commercial unit, he said.
Renovation work on the historic site began in July 2020 with environmental abatement and lead-based paint. Previously, roofing and repointing work was carried out on the facility.
McKnight was personally funding the project until January 2021, when he began working with a private lending group in South Carolina to help pay for the work, he said. McKnight has done other home improvement projects in South Carolina.
“We took a property that was bought for $1,000 and after two years and eight months we turned it into a million dollar property,” McKnight said.
Renovation work included reinforcing structural elements of the building and working on masonry, stone and brickwork as well as replacing entire floors, he said.
“Blood, sweat and tears entered the property. I can insure all three in large quantities,” said McKnight, who worked with laborers to complete the renovation during the pandemic.
“There’s nothing like a pandemic to prevent you from getting the timely help you normally expect,” he said.
McKnight commended the City of Yorkville for its role in redeveloping the historic site.
The Kendall County Sheriff’s Office moved from the old jail site to a new County Public Safety Center in 1992 on the west side of Yorkville. Yorkville purchased the former jail property for $160,000 from Kendall County in 2010.
Yorkville officials said the city requested proposals in 2012 for the property but received only one response from a potential developer. The city at the time did not move forward with the proposal, according to city documents.
Preservation advocates formed the Yorkville Historic Preservation Society as part of a campaign to save the old jail building.
“It took a lot of vision on the part of the city and the nonprofit preservation group to realize that the property would generate more revenue than if they had torn it down,” McKnight said.
“Without the participation and efforts of the city and the community, this would never have happened. It took a lot of vision and support,” McKnight said. “For everyone involved, it was a great success.”
Yorkville Mayor John Purcell said the improvements to the building are remarkable.
“The developer took a property that was about to be leveled…and flipped it,” Purcell said.
The site will generate property taxes and jobs and create more housing for people in downtown Yorkville, the mayor said.
Linda Girardi is a freelance journalist for The Beacon-News.