An architectural firm will hold a meeting this month to seek public input on usages for a 1930s-era limestone home that once belonged to DuPage County's first forest preserve superintendent.
The McKee House and property, which includes a residence, pump house and administration building on St. Charles Road in the Churchill Woods Forest Preserve near Glen Ellyn, is in jeopardy of being demolished after officials of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County voted to tear it down in 2006.
Preservation groups and family members of the first forest preserve superintendent, Robert McKee, halted the demolition and are still trying to persuade the forest preserve to save the deteriorating structures.
In February, the board decided to divert some demolition funds and hired AltusWorks Inc., an architectural firm, to study the house and buildings, come up with cost estimates for remodeling them and suggest possible usages for the structures. The firm, which was paid $43,000, will conduct a public input session at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Lake Ellyn Boathouse, 645 Lenox Road, Glen Ellyn.
"It's a positive step that the forest preserve is listening to the community," said Linda Gilbert, board member and past president of the Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation. "There are so many things that building can be used for, such as a meeting place for civic organizations and other groups. I think rent generated from the building has the potential to pay for itself."
Forest preserve officials have said the building has problems with mold, lead-based paint, a bad roof and moisture, among other things. The district said the building would also have to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and would need a fire-protection system.
Staff at the forest preserve district presented a plan in 2012 that included the options of doing nothing; razing the structures for $67,000; preserving the structures for $85,000 to $100,000, and converting the home back to a residence for $398,000 to $428,000.
Gilbert said her organization also received estimates and said they came in a lot lower.
"It's still a solid building," Gilbert said. "It's just the interior of the building that needs the work."
Jessica Ortega, landscape architect supervisor for the forest preserve district, said the board is listening to preservation groups and the public. That is part of the reason the district decided to conduct the study, she said.
"I think the board really wants to look at all options before making a decision," Ortega said. "The meeting will gather input from citizens to get a better understanding of what they want to see happen there."
The buildings went up in 1936, and the main home was the residence of Robert McKee until 1960. It was a guard residence until 2002 and has been vacant since then.
The district also made a deal with the DuPage County Housing Authority in 2006 to lease the buildings and convert them into housing for military veterans.
The conversion never happened, and the housing authority, which has been ordered to pay back $10.75 million in misused tax money after a series of audits by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, terminated the lease in 2011.