Want to see the reason why Belleville city services have been spread across town for the past 16 months? You have a chance today at 101 S. Illinois St.
City Hall will be rededicated with speechifying at 10 a.m. The public is invited from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to see what they bought.
A nearly 60-year accumulation of grime was cleared. Asbestos is gone. Disabled residents can gain access. Bathrooms sparkle and have changing tables. There’s actually some parking available.
The council chamber is beautiful, but maintains the feel of architect Charles E. King’s original designs with wood wall and brass lights and brass coat hooks. Gone is the straight-line rogue’s gallery of city leaders on one side confronting pews of city residents on the other side. Everything now is circular, with aldermen able to see one another and the public seats part of that circle and closer to the city’s leaders. There’s lots of natural and indirect light — including a big halo fixture hovering above city leaders, maybe to remind them to be good and play nice with one another? The public’s reminder to be good would be the metal detector at the entrance.
Original planters, tables and chairs designed by King have been brought out of storage, refurbished and placed back where he wanted them to be.
There’s also more to be done. The renovations took more than twice as long as expected and cost more than twice what was first predicted.
The estimate two years ago was $2.25 million. Add-ons like the new boiler and other unexpected expenses are now pushing the final bill to somewhere north of $5 million.
The old police station was gutted, with asbestos removed, some space reallocated and an empty elevator shaft prepared (insert your own taxpayer joke here). The old cop shop is basically two stories of bare concrete awaiting about $500,000 in work so the city’s housing and economic development departments can move in.
Mayor Mark Eckert said those departments’ current building at 407 E. Lincoln St. will be sold to help fund maybe as much as half of the renovations, which he expects are about 18 months off. There are also a few of the original windows that have not yet been replaced. Seals are broken and condensation clouds them.
The new main entrance is on what was the back of the building, off West Washington Street. There is a large blank wall. Light fixtures are atop it, like on a billboard. Eckert is hoping for a mural, maybe showing Belleville as it used to be with the old courthouse and old City Hall. It could probably use a Stag Beer sign.
Or the mural could go a different direction. Maybe half is the old, the other half a chalkboard: You get to draw in the future.