JOLIET – Residents and business owners said they want to see a Chicago Street connection, more bike paths and a better public image of downtown Joliet, among other items, in the city’s master plan for the area.
They heard the possibilities of what could shape the downtown area in the future when consultant Bill James from Camiros Consulting Group revealed some goals of the plans during a joint community input meeting of the city of Joliet and the Joliet City Center Partnership LLC on Thursday afternoon.
Some other ideas that resonated with people attending the meeting were cleaning up streets and sidewalks, catering to young adults for an economic boost, strategically placing parking and signage, and creating a new town square.
The master plan focused on revitalizing the Chicago Street corridor, identifying opportunities for land use, and developing a plan for the downtown economy.
“This is not a plan of just tossing out a bunch of wonderful ideas, but how can we create an agenda for results we can actually move toward,” James said.
After James explained some of the highlights of the plan, everyone broke up into three groups for discussion: development and economics, transportation along Chicago Street, and the image and perceptions of the city.
Joliet resident and business owner Jose Alvarado appreciated the chance for feedback. He participated in the Joliet image group.
“We talked about the negative and positive perceptions,” Alvarado said, explaining how many of the negative points were already brought up by James.
Camiros’ analysis confirmed that Joliet has a poor image, identity and brand, weak market conditions, a lack of people and activity, little private development and that it needs direction, James said.
But he also said the downtown area can turn around if it focuses on its strengths, including good entertainment and cultural attractions like the Rialto Theater, the Joliet Slammers and the casinos.
Good transportation could be bolstered by the removal of the Will County Courthouse parking lot and Chicago Street connection between Jefferson and Washington streets.
James said investors at the meeting expressed interest in investing in the downtown area if that happens.
Joliet resident and president of the St. Pats Neighborhood Association Carol Ann Heinemann liked another strength that James mentioned, that downtown Joliet can become “a Mecca for young adults” by converting dilapidated buildings into low-rent housing for young workers and students at nearby universities.
In an Oct. 6 City Council meeting, James said the city needs to target young adults for downtown.
“It’s exciting that this could develop into a downtown for the young,” Heinemann said.