Estates sees new life after 8 years of abandonment
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[March 24, 2010]
Lincoln Estates, the former Lincoln
Developmental Center, will begin having some activity on its
103-acre grounds. Although it won't necessarily bring area jobs, it
will ensure some, and it is an important first step in the state
recognizing the value of this prime acreage, according to Lincoln
Mayor Keith Snyder.
The Illinois Department of Central Management Services has stated
that the Department of Corrections would be using some of the
grounds as a warehouse for state surplus furniture and supplies.
State Sen. Bomke said the decision makes fiscal sense. "Why would we
rent facilities when we already own a facility with ample space?" he
asked. The senator was alluding to the current Pana storage
facilities that the state rents at considerable cost while numerous
state-owned buildings on the Lincoln Estates property sit empty.
The senator says that although he is glad to see the state
exercise some fiscal responsibility, this does not alter his efforts
to find uses for the property that would create jobs.
Bomke has been a longtime proponent of reopening the grounds in
some manner, especially the four 3-year-old, 10-bedroom homes that
have never been used since being completed under ex-Gov. Rod
According to the Lincoln mayor, Correctional Industries will use
the warehouse, next to the power plant, to store materials and
finished products. The building itself used to be called the
"general store" and is across the railroad tracks from The Mill.
"Is it a good deal for Lincoln? It's a great first step for the
redevelopment of the LDC grounds, and any re-tasking of those
grounds is a great step for Lincoln," Snyder said. "Those grounds
have sat vacant since 2002. While the moving of the warehouse from
Pana may not create any new jobs, it will ensure that a handful of
local jobs are retained to staff the warehouse. And retention of
jobs is always good. There are currently six jobs at the warehouse
in Pana. That facility is closing. Those six jobs are now going to
be Lincoln jobs."
The mayor also looked at other benefits from the decision.
"In addition, the state is going to spend a lot of money
rehabbing that building and getting it fit for use by Correctional
Industries," he continued. "Those dollars will turn over in our
community and help our local economy. The building is located on a
corner of the grounds. Its use will create no major difficulties or
impediments to any of the rest of the grounds being utilized by any
other organization. There are still around 100 acres and over 20
other buildings available for development. Having new activity
taking place on the grounds will encourage other organizations to
take a closer look at what the LDC facility could offer them. I'm
happy the state has taken this first step towards the redevelopment
of the LDC grounds, and I look forward to further developments in
When Gov. Quinn took office last year, Bomke, Snyder and Rep.
Rich Brauer met with the governor's office to make sure the new governor
was aware of Lincoln Estates and to encourage use of the state
grounds for employment opportunities.
Bomke said he said he met again with the governor's chief of
staff a month and a half ago to try to get something going on using
the dormant group homes.
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Central Management Services has been conducting a study of the
facility and possible uses, but that report has not been completed.
The grounds have been the point of several possible scenarios
since being closed by former Gov. George Ryan amid controversial
claims by Ryan that resident safety was in doubt.
In 2007, after four new group homes were built on the northeast
section of the grounds, Blagojevich broke a promise to Bomke to open
the homes, and they have sat empty ever since.
In 2008, Rep Bill Mitchell proposed using Lincoln Estates
property for veterans homes and assistance facilities, but that went
nowhere as well.
Other possible uses of the buildings and grounds that have been
proposed include a residential treatment center for youth programs
and a center for veterans with Alzheimer's disease.
Although CMS has not said what private and state services
agencies have toured the grounds, several have.
Snyder had previously remarked that he was told several groups
had looked at the grounds but that he had not been given any
information as to any progress in finding suitors for the facility
and grounds until this communication.
Two weeks ago Illinois Republicans sent a letter to Quinn
recommending the state sell the grounds, which cost an estimated $1
million a year to maintain.
At one time in the early '50s, the then-named Lincoln State
School had 5,000 residents and was the county's largest employer.
From the LDN archives: