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Downtown Kankakee Listed on National Register of Historic Places

The Kankakee Downtown Historic District has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The district was listed on June 11, 2018 in the National Register of Historic Places as significant for its architecture, as well as its significance of commerce, politics, and government. Contributing properties listed in the National Register district are eligible to receive a 20% federal income tax credit for qualifying rehabilitation projects.

The district is located in downtown Kankakee (Kankakee County) and is roughly bounded by West Avenue on the west, Oak Street on the north, Indiana Avenue to the east, and Station Street on the south. The Nomination was prepared by Carlile Architects LLC of Kankakee and was jointly sponsored by the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, the Kankakee Development Corporation, and the City of Kankakee.

The Kankakee Downtown Historic District encompasses 73 structures, 62 of which are qualifying contributing historic structures. Constructed between 1864 and 1967, the area contains a broad range of architectural styles and represents the work of architects Holabird & Root and Zachary Taylor Davis among others. It contains a wide range of architectural styles falling into three major periods of building: Late Victorian Italianate and Romanesque Revival from 1864 to 1900; Early 20th Century Beaux Arts and Classical Revival from 1901 to 1929; and Modern Art Deco and Post-War Modernism from 1930 to 1967.

Four churches and seven public buildings are in the 14-block district as well as the Kankakee County Courthouse, the Kankakee Depot, and the Lemuel Milk Stone Barn all of which were previously listed on the National Register.

Elisabeth Dunbar, a local preservationist and former Project Manager with Carlile Architects, said the district is significant as an example of small, Midwestern urbanized settlement and growth during the period that paralleled the national commercial, social, and political trends and architectural styles. “This area represents the core business district of the City of Kankakee including sites of early newspapers, theaters, and entertainment, fraternal organizations, churches, grocery and clothing stores-the core of the day-to-day lives of the residents of the city and the center of the economic evolution of the City of Kankakee, and by extension, Kankakee County.”

Properties listed on the National Register are eligible to receive tax incentives for rehabilitation projects. Lisa Wogan of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County said, “The establishment of a

historic district Downtown Kankakee adds perfectly to the neighborhood’s existing development toolkit. Preservation tax credits – along with the benefits of the Enterprise Zone, Opportunity Zone, and Special Service Area offer property owners and other investors an opportunity to realize significant cost savings.”

Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong said, “I am thrilled at the inclusion of our downtown on the National Register of Historic Places. Kankakee is rich with history and with the addition of this designation, we will have another tool to help preserve our historic buildings and structures for decades to come.”

The Economic Alliance is planning to host an educational event this summer or fall to help property owners better understand the Historic Tax Credit application process. Momence investors who area already taking advantage of the incentive in the Momence Historic District will be featured to discuss their use of the credit.

The National Register of Historic Places is our Country’s official list of historic buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts worthy of preservation. The National Register provides formal recognition of a property’s architectural, historical, or archaeological significance. It also identifies historic properties for planning purposes and insures that these properties will be considered in the planning of state or federally assisted projects. National Register listing encourages preservation of historic properties through public awareness, federal and state tax incentives, and grants. Listing in the National Register does not place obligations or restrictions on the use, treatment, transfer, or disposition of private property.

Carlile Architects LLC was founded in 2011. The firm is a full-service architecture, design, and planning firm serving Northern and Central Illinois specializing in civic, institutional, educational, and religious work. The firm has extensive experience in façade restoration and rehabilitation and historic preservation.

The Economic Alliance of Kankakee County is a public-private partnership that works to create jobs and expand the economic base by improving the local business climate. Working under Kankakee County’s 2014-2019 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), the Alliance is challenged to help spur $500 million in new business investment and 500 new jobs, along with assisting 150 prospective new businesses. Kankakee County has been ranked the #1 Small Metro in Illinois for Job & Tech Growth by Milken Institute for 4 of the past 5 years.

Kankakee Development Corporation is dedicated to making Kankakee a vibrant and good-looking community. It is made up of the planners, approvers, and vision makers behind downtown Kankakee with a focus on developing and improving the heart of the city.



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