It’s been 8 years since the closure of the Jacksonville Developmental Center by then-Governor Pat Quinn. At the time of its closure, Quinn’s Active Community Care Transition Plan deemed the facility as one of the oldest and most expensive to operate in the state. Quinn’s committee claimed that the state would be saving $11.7 million per year. Despite the cost savings to the state, the 100-acre campus has cost the City of Jacksonville job losses and a stagnant hole of viable property in the middle of the city.
Central Management Services has had the property’s buildings boarded up and installed concrete barriers on the through streets to the property due to ongoing criminal activity and trespassing. It has caused significant trouble for Jacksonville first responders and police within that time as criminal mischief has continued on the property.
100th District Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer, who is also a Jacksonville resident, continues to try to find a way to get the property cleaned of its buildings or to find a possible situation where the property can be sold. “We have looked at the recent Capital Bill that passed last year and ways to allocate funds towards that property. We are always looking at ways to partition it out so that the properties that do have the greater value could be sold at a higher value. Then, you could put that money maybe back into demolishing another building towards the back of the property. That is something that I believe I talk to CMS about this situation about once a month.”
Davidsmeyer would also like to get the City of Jacksonville involved. Mayor Andy Ezard told the State Journal Register in 2017 that he hoped to get the property redeveloped. CMS said then that they were possibly pursuing appraisal of the property, but it was never issued. Davidsmeyer hopes that a portion of the nearly 100-acre campus could be given to extend Community Park: “That front property is attractive. I’ve talked to a number of community members that have talked about expanding the soccer fields. They’ve talked about maybe adding another basketball court or something else and having it as part of the park. I’m not sure that the Jacksonville Parks & Lakes Department wants to add any additional mowing and all of that, but we have to figure out a way to turn that dark spot into something brighter.”
Many of the 18 buildings on the property, some of which that were built in the 1900s, were scheduled for demolition prior to the center’s closure in November 2012. 10 of the buildings were still being used at the time of the closure, but most of the buildings have extremely deteriorated and some have been vandalized.
50th District State Senator Steve McClure currently has legislation before the General Assembly that would require the property be audited and sold within a specific amount of time, but it has yet to make it out of committee.
For now, the city of Jacksonville will have to again wait on the state to approve a solution for the property.