By Megann Horstead | For The Bugle
Joliet has room to grow in the eyes of its mayor, who says officials want to keep bringing in new developments and continue demonstrating a commitment to the city’s residents.
On Feb. 23, Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk told the crowd at Joliet Junior College during his State of the City address that the city is growing.
“When I was here [at JJC] a year ago, I bragged about the good things that were happening in Joliet economically,” he said. “I took the time to compare the numbers from 2015 from where they were the year before, and we were up across the board in every area that you could measure. So, the challenge, [for the] mayor and the city council, is ‘Can we keep the momentum going?’ I’m proud to say that we did in 2016.”
In 2016, the city issued 195 new single-family residential home permits. That makes for a 31 percent jump from the previous year.
For multi-family permits in 2016, Joliet issued 68. That’s a 119 percent increase from the year before.
In total, there were 263 new residential permits issued by the city within the last 12 months, which is a 46 percent increase from 2015.
O’Dekirk took a moment to review the numbers for commercial and industrial growth in the city, as well.
The total new square footage for commercial permits issued in 2016 was 438,539 square feet, which is a 246 percent increase from 2015. The amount of property added in Joliet commercially is valued at approximately $75,694,000, or a 75 percent increase from 2015.
For industrial permits in 2016, Joliet issued 15; in 2015 the city issued 13. The total new square footage of industrial sites added in Joliet within the last 12 months is $3,603,000. The new valuation of that property is $134,975,000.
“Those are incredible numbers especially in the State of Illinois,” O’Dekirk said. “If you go around the state, you talk to other mayors or other legislators, they’re going to tell you how people are struggling in this state with the local economy, with what’s happened in Springfield. It doesn’t apply to Joliet. This city is booming.”
O’Dekirk, noting that new developments in Joliet have risen since the 2008 recession, said it’s safe to say the city is thriving again in reviewing the numbers for 2015 and 2016.
“The big reason, I think, for what I’m talking about with the big increases that you’re seeing in Joliet has to do with the economic development happening in Joliet,” O’Dekirk said. “When you look at what’s happening just south of here, … the intermodal port about two or three miles south of here is the largest inland port in all of North America. It continues to grow. Because of that port, we have brought in major developments [and] thousands of new jobs.”
A number of new businesses came to Joliet in 2016, and they include Amazon, IKEA, Mars Food and Cadence Premier Logistics.
In 2017, the city is working with the Cullinan Group to redevelop the area between I-55 and I-80.
“That area has gone underdeveloped for years,” O’Dekirk said. “There have plans before that were scrapped. The major problem with the area was there’s no good access in and off of that property. The City of Joliet has worked with the Cullinan Group…we have worked with our state agencies and with federal agencies.”
O’Dekirk said Cullinan Group is coming forward to the city within the next month, looking to secure a deal by April 1 to move forward with the new development.
“They’re looking to secure a significant amount of state funds to build a new interchange at I-55 and Seil Road, which will go directly onto that property,” he said. “They are looking for significant contribution from the federal government to build additional roads to improve the intersection at I-55 and Route 52/Jefferson Street… What’s being proposed for the Cullinan site, it’s not another shopping mall, it’s somewhat bigger than that.”
The proposed project intends to bring 5,000 new jobs to Joliet on this site and more than 8,500 construction jobs.
“They’re estimating economic impact of this project to be $1.4 billion,” O’Dekirk said. “This will be the largest project to ever come to the City of Joliet.”
East side development
“When I was running for mayor, when you were on the east side talking with residents or talking with business owners, a common refrain that you heard from the people on the older parts of town was that they felt the city had forgotten about them or left them behind,” O’Dekirk recalled. “The city expanded west, we expanded south to the Kankakee River, north almost up to Oswego and that the older parts of town were left behind, and a lot of the business owners were saying that.”
O’Dekirk said he spoke with city staff to develop solutions to foster redevelopment.
In 2016, the city took action to extend the downtown TIF District to promote investment among neighboring properties on Joliet’s east side.
“We’re going to redevelop those neighborhoods with the tax dollars generated within those neighborhoods,” O’Dekirk said. “I think it sends an important message to the east side businesses that they have not been forgotten about, that they are part of the overall plan, what’s good for a downtown businesses, or what’s good for a business on the west side by St. Joe’s Hospital, is also good for them.”