It's a true success story. An undisputed moneymaker. And, of course, the city doesn't know what to do with it.
The apartment complex formerly known as Evergreen Terrace is expected to turn a profit of nearly $1 million this year. That's right, almost a whole million in pure profit, which is no small amount of money.
The city forks over just half that each year to keep the Rialto Square Theatre on its feet, at least to some extent, and the outcry is deafening. The complaints about the Rialto collecting tax money are such that you would think the town was bankrupting itself merely in the interest of giving Yanni a place to sing.
The Rialto needs that money to stay in business. The apartment complex formerly known as Evergreen Terrace, on the other hand, needs nothing. It is pulling in enough to subsidize not one but two Rialtos, and in response you get hand-wringing.
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This apartment complex, which is now called Riverwalk Homes, may as well be a gift horse. Well, maybe not a gift horse. More like a horse that it took 12 years and $10 million in legal fees to fight over in court. But now that they have this 12-year, $10 million horse, what is the Joliet City Council doing with it? The city council is looking it in the mouth.
The city, for some reason, wants to redevelop Riverwalk Homes at what could be a cost of $58 million. And by redeveloping, the city means making it smaller.
So the plan is to pay millions of dollars in the interest of downsizing, with more and more money left on the table the smaller they make the place.
All of this runs counter to common sense, which dictates building more buildings to house more units to make more money. An even better plan would be to construct a whole new Evergreen Terrace, or Riverwalk Homes, or whatever they want to call it.
And why stop there? If they build five more Riverwalk Homes they could make close to $6 million a year. That's nearly enough money to put a police officer in every school — both public and parochial — in Joliet. It's kind of outrageous they haven't built five more Evergreen Terraces already. In the interest of safety. And the children.
It stands to reason that if they built six more on top of those five Evergreen Terraces they could profit by about $12 million. That might give the city enough to install a fireman in every school along with the police officer. It's probably worth the money. In case something happens.
It's pretty clear that the more Evergreen Terraces they build the better it will be for everyone. And it's puzzling that they haven't invested the necessary funds to start construction. At least when you look at all the other things the city council doesn't seem to mind throwing money at.
It's not just the Rialto. Look at the Collins Street prison. That's supposed to be making all sorts of money some day, but that day isn't today. Today, you have the Joliet museum getting $50,000 in “seed money” from the city.
The museum needs the seed money since, as everyone knows, you have to spend money to make money. The museum will spend this seed money and then make even more money by charging people to take tours of the prison.
The theory is that people are dying to look around the old prison. And they probably are. They were breaking in for free when it was against the law so you have to assume they will pay at least a little to do it lawfully.
The public is apparently intrigued by the history of the 19th century prison, by all the suffering and horror that went on behind its limestone walls. The place is so scary place that they're even supposed to open up a haunted prison there in the fall. Well, it's really going to be at the women's prison across Collins Street from the actual prison, but why split hairs?
Of course, Riverwalk Homes, which is already making money, could make even more if the city ran tourists through it instead of the prison. There's quite a bit of history there as well. It was still Evergreen Terrace for much of that history, so it might be a good idea to change the name back. In the interest of historical preservation.
The tours would be truly shocking — the laundry room where a young woman was stabbed to death, the apartment where a 4-year-old was left alone and died in a fire, the courtyard where a man bled to death for an hour after he was shot in the neck, and the windows three children fell from in just two years.
It's all quite horrifying. There's sure to be plenty who will pay to see it.
• Joe Hosey is the editor of The Herald-News. You can reach him at 815-280-4094, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JoeHosey.