2021 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation AWARD FOR ADAPTIVE REUSE
Former Aledo residents Crista and William J. Albertson creatively renovated and reused the more than 100-year-old Carnegie Library in Mercer County as a co-working facility for technology education, recruiting and employment. The library, built in 1915-16 thanks to a donation from renowned industrialist Andrew Carnegie, closed in 2019 and the Albertson family bought and began renovations in March 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic. Contractors and laborers, considered “essential workers” during the pandemic, were able to continue working at the historic building, providing stable jobs and economic activity at local restaurants and other businesses in the area. The new coworking space and tech center run by the organization High-Tech Small Town opened to the public in the restored library in May 2021. High-Tech Small Town is also working with area school districts to build a future pipeline of rural tech industry talent.
In a diverse juxtaposition of old and new, the former library building will now serve the ecommerce industry that has been thriving in Aledo and surrounding areas. The library is located in the National-Register listed Downtown Aledo Historic District, and designation of the building opened opportunities for funding assistance, including use of Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits. The project is the first in the Downtown Aledo Historic District to use these vital tax incentives for rehabilitation of a historic building.
The Albertson family’s goal was to develop a reuse plan to save an irreplaceable community landmark while bringing modern technology and needed services to their hometown. This adaptive reuse serves as a model for future economic development projects in the Downtown Aledo Historic District.