KANKAKEE — Kankakee’s code enforcement, sewer service and technical support services will soon have a new home in downtown Kankakee thanks to the city’s purchase of the former LaBeau Brothers property.

At a purchase price of $425,000 in September and a renovation budget of $1.35 million, the approximate 20 employees will be moving into two previously vacant properties, 295 N. Harrison Ave. and 270 N. Indiana Ave., by perhaps as early as mid-August.

Last week, the Kankakee City Council awarded the renovation contract to Heritage Development & Construction Co., of Kankakee.

The city’s planning department had also been located in the Space Center building, but the city now contracts out that service to Teska Associates, Inc., of Plainfield.

Heritage was the lowest of six bidders, nudging out the bid of PSI Inc. by about $10,000. The project had been estimated to cost $1.6 million.

Work is anticipated to begin March 1.

Vacant since LaBeau left its longtime downtown home in April 2018 for its new location in the former Taylor Dodge dealership site along East Court Street near the Interstate 57 interchange, the city will be making the nearly 24,000-square-feet building complex part of its growing downtown campus.

The city had been locating these operations in the Space Center property — which was the former General Foods manufacturing plant — along Hobbie Avenue in the 7th Ward.

The 20-year lease with Space Center is set to expire at the end of 2021 and the city was looking for space to call its own.

They found such a site in the 1st Ward.

Architect Doug Bright and Environmental Services Utility superintendent Pete Schiel explained the city can rehab this property at less than one-third of the cost of a new structure.

And, the pair noted, the added benefit is that this type of development could eventually lead to some renewed interest in the area by others seeking business space.

Bright explained new office and maintenance space would cost between $250 to $275 per square foot, or about $6 million to $6.5 million to build.

The city purchased the property for $18.33 per square foot. When the renovation costs are factored in, city residents will still only be paying about $74 a square foot in total for this space, or about $1.8 million in total to buy and renovate. That price, he noted, is far less than what could have ultimately been spent.

The cost of these renovations does not include roof repairs.

LaBeau had been a downtown 1st Ward mainstay for more than 70 years.

The North Indiana Avenue property is just under 9,000 square feet while the North Harrison Avenue building has a little more than 15,000 square feet.

The project will include extensive interior work including electrical, heating and air conditioning as well as sections being gutted and redesigned. The code office will be facing North Harrison while the sewer services office will be facing East Chestnut Street.

Regarding the exterior, a new north wall will be needed on the Indiana Avenue property and both building will be painted a yet-to-be-determined color.

“This can help bring the downtown back,” Schiel said. He noted between the project, City Hall, the Donald Green Public Safety Center and the Kankakee Public Library, there is becoming a campus-like feel to the area.

Schiel noted that without the city stepping forward with this project here, these building could have likely remained vacant for years.

Bright noted the building will now be a downtown asset. “These will look like new buildings when everything is done.”

In all, about 20 workers will be in the building on a daily basis.

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.