STERLING – The upper floors of the five-story county courthouse in Sterling have been vacant for years. That could change.
Earlier this month, the Whiteside County Board took its first step toward transferring the courthouse's second through fifth floors to Sterling Today, a group that focuses on downtown development.
The county has long owned the basement and first floor of the courthouse, 101 E. Third St. In August, it paid $30,000 for the upper floors, which were owned by Central Illinois Real Estate Holdings of Peoria, County Administrator Joel Horn said.
After buying the upper floors, the county fixed the building's roof, a project that cost about $100,000, Horn said.
"Those floors have been empty off and on for 20 or 30 years," he said. "There would have to be quite a few improvements made. The previous owners weren't taking care of the building. We wanted someone to be a responsible owner in maintaining it."
On Feb. 4, the County Board approved giving Sterling Today an option to buy the floors for a nominal cost of $1. The process, Horn said, is "very preliminary."
"The county doesn't want to be a landlord," he said. "We're not interested in redeveloping that part of the building. We know Sterling Today will take care of the building the way it should be. In the long run, this is a win-win for downtown. They will redevelop it into something that will be an asset for the community."
Among other projects, Sterling Today helped develop a downtown alley. The group's members include local attorney Dan Hawkins and Heather Sotelo, executive director of the Greater Sterling Development Corp.
Sterling Today representatives couldn't be reached today for comment.