Local Editorials

Our view: County, property owner need to focus on bringing jobs to former Motorola campus

It has been about a year and a half since Edward Harvard Holdings bought the long-vacant 325-acre former Motorola campus on the north side of Harvard, and plans to redevelop the site to make smartphones have not materialized.

We’re starting to lose hope that the $32 million redevelopment plan will move forward and help bring jobs to Harvard and McHenry County.

An incomplete application for enterprise zone incentives estimated that the project would be finished months ago.

We’re concerned with the lack of action on the property, and don’t want the developers to continue to sit on the site and let it deteriorate even more than it already has. However, saddling the owners with the cost of fixing up the William H. Coventry House and Barn might not be the best way to encourage development in Harvard.

Representatives from the McHenry County Historic Preservation Commission completed a building inspection on the historic landmark property, which sits on the former Motorola campus, and they found it deteriorating, with some needs they deemed urgent.

The deteriorating structure dates back to 1855, at which time Capt. William H. Coventry and his wife, Maria Van Hosen, bought the property and built the home, McHenry County Historical Society Administrator Kurt Begalka said. In 1940, the house and barn were given the Henry Horner award for “Most Beautiful Farm.” The farm was plaqued by the McHenry County Historical Society’s Historic Sites Committee in 1989 because of its historic value.

An attorney representing the owners, who have largely been quiet and declined to elaborate on the status of the redevelopment, responded to pressure from the Historic Preservation Commission regarding the house.

James Cambridge of Michigan-based Kerr Russell Attorneys & Counselors wrote a letter to the commission, county and city of Harvard on behalf of Edward Harvard in October rebutting claims that the building is being demolished through neglect.

Cambridge said that although the owner acknowledged the importance of historic preservation, the building couldn’t be looked at in isolation.

“Often, the preservation of a single building – as important as it is – must be viewed in the context of something much bigger and equally important to the community,” he wrote. “Our collective efforts should be devoted to redevelopment of the entire campus.”

We agree. The county and city should be concerned with the redevelopment of the entire campus. However, if the house can be saved and the property redeveloped, even better.

“Preservation of this historic landmark is not mutually exclusive with the redevelopment of the Motorola facility. … Construction efficiencies could be realized by pursing both projects simultaneously,” Historic Preservation Commissioner James McConnell wrote in a letter to the McHenry County Board.

We hope all parties involved keep doing their part to bring life back into this long-vacant property that could have huge benefits to the community if redeveloped.

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