JOLIET – A plan to develop 224 acres of warehouse space at a site once slated for the Bridge Street Town Centre shopping mall got a boost Wednesday from the Joliet City Council Economic Development Committee.
The committee voted 2-1 to support rezoning for the land at the interchange of Interstates 55 and 80 despite opposition from Chairman Larry Hug.
Hillwood Investment Properties, a Texas-based developer of warehouse space owned by the Perot family, wants to begin construction in 2016.
Senior Vice President Don Schoenheider told the committee that Hillwood has a deal to buy the 264 acres if it can get rezoning from the city.
The plan includes 40 acres to develop about 350,000 square feet of retail space. O&S Holdings, which still owns the land, had planned to build the 1.5-million square foot Bridge Street Town Centre lifestyle shopping mall before the recession hit.
Schoenheider said O&S no longer plans to build the mall.
“They told us their decision is to sell the property, get whatever money they can from it, and leave town,” he said.
For-sale signs have been posted on the property recently.
Committee members Pat Mudron said he did not see a future for retail development at the site.
“O&S wouldn’t be selling to these people if they saw in the future there would be an appetite for retail there,” Mudron said. “They made a decision: it’s over. And this is the next best for them. Isn’t this the next best for us?”
Committee member Terry Morris said he was not convinced that the site no longer held promise for retail. But he noted that 40 acres was set aside for retail in the Hillwood plan. Also, another 45 acres in the area under a separate owner could be developed for retail, he said.
“How much longer do we wait?” Morris asked.
Hug, the lone vote against rezoning that ultimately would have to be approved by the full City Council, called the site at the crossroads of two interstates “a prime area” that should be reserved for high-profile development.
“That would be a prime area for corporate headquarters,” Hug said. “But if we turn it into the same kind of warehouse development we have south of the city, it’s over.”
Schoenheider said Hillwood does not develop retail property but added retail to the plan to address concerns from city officials that the space would be used completely for warehousing.
City Manager Jim Hock suggested that the city put in specific requirements for retail development if it agrees to zone the other 224 acres for warehouses.
“If you say, ‘We’re going to reserve that 40 acres for retail for when that happens,’ nothing may happen,” Hock said. “Ten years from now, they may be coming back and saying, ‘Nothing has happened. Can we make it all warehouse?’ ”
Schoenheider said after the meeting that Hillwood would like to begin doing work on the site in 2016.