Long wait for credits over

Financing completed on project to turn old Paris High School into senior apartments


The final piece of financing for the renovation of the former Paris High School into new senior apartment units was announced this week by the state.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced the first four recipients for its new statewide historic preservation income tax credit program, which encourages private investment to rehabilitate historic properties in Illinois.

This is the last of several financing initiatives that will allow the Illinois Laborers Home Development Corp. to actually start the construction project. Total investment to turn the hundred-plus year old building on South Main Street into 42 units of affordable senior apartments will be between $7 and $8 million, depending on final construction bids

It has been a long test of patience for the City of Paris, which initiated the project with the LHDC some two years ago, and Mayor Craig Smith breathed a sigh of relief.

“We couldn’t be more excited to see the work finally cleared for action,” Smith said after receiving the news from Springfield Thursday.

Financing for the work includes several state tax credit programs including the one just announced, plus assistance from the city using Downtown TIF Rehabilitation District funds, and some remainder in the city’s economic development revolving loan fund for street and parking lot improvements, just south of the building.

Smith expects work to start by the end of this month, on what will be a year to 18-month project.

For this initial round of the Illinois Historic Preservation Tax Credit program, applications were received for 24 historic properties in 11 different communities. A total of $9,750,000 in credits were assigned to the four successful projects in this first round.

In addition to the Paris High School renovation, the other three include renovation of the former Hotel Belleville in Belleville into affordable senior housing and ground floor retail space; the former Cook County Hospital administration building into hotel, office and retail space; and the former nurses’ quarters at the Hines V.A. Hospital into supportive veterans housing.

Illinois joins 32 other states offering statewide historic tax credits, which are known to stimulate local economics. Private investment in construction and rehabilitation expenses and their leveraged effects create more full-time and part-time jobs, the IDNR announcement states.

“The economic and cultural benefits of returning historic buildings back to useful life ripple through local communities and economies,” said IDNR Director Colleen Callahan.

The former high school classroom building on Main Street between Crawford and Madison has been vacant since the Paris school district opened the new Paris Cooperative High School north of the city three years ago.

In a determined effort to preserve and reuse the old three-story building, the school district agreed to sell the downtown properties to the city for one dollar. In addition to the classroom building the city also owns and manages the Eveland Gym, which opened in 1942, and several vocational building additions on Elizabeth and South Central. One of these now houses a vocational training program in plastic injection molding through Lake Land Community College.

Eveland Gym and the vocational buildings are not part of the renovation effort creating senior apartments. The work is only being done in the building that fronts on Main Street.

The Edgar County Community Foundation also helped meet one of the IDNR requirements, and represents a small local investment into the project by a local non-profit organization that supports historic preservation.

Next step in advancing the high school renovation is the formal transfer of the deed to the building from the city to the LHDC. This should take place later this month.