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Local News

Joliet hotel developer wants more incentives

JOLIET – The developer of a stalled hotel-conference center wants the city of Joliet to more than double the incentive package, while the plan has been scaled back.

The Joliet City Council could vote Dec. 1 on the new proposal for $6.5 million in tax incentives over 20 years for the project at the Houbolt Road interchange with Interstate 80.

Hospitality Guru Group representatives told the council’s Economic Development Committee on Monday that a second hotel planned for the project now would be delayed until market conditions prove it viable.

The developer plans to build a 120-room Holiday Inn with a 14,000-square-foot banquet and conference facility. A second 100-room hotel could be built later if there is a market.

“It will be a state-of-the-art facility that will put Joliet on the map. I can guarantee that,” Sanjiv Mehrotra, founding partner of Aurora-based Hospitality Guru Group, told the committee.

Mehrotra said the project would bring business conferences and hotel guests who now are not coming to Joliet.

But he and others with the group said the project is not financially feasible with the incentive package approved in 2013.

At that time, the council approved 10 years of tax incentives in a package worth up to $3 million.

“Here we are, two years later, and the project still hasn’t gotten off the ground,” said Joliet attorney Michael Hansen, representing the group.

Hansen said the project, now estimated at $20 million to $25 million, is much more expensive than originally estimated when the incentive package was approved. Added costs amount to $11 million.

Guru Group in September said one big factor in the costs is the city requirement that all-union labor be used in construction. The union issue was hardly mentioned Monday, although Hansen said all-union labor would be used.

The committee voted unanimously to move the incentive package to the full council for a vote but did not make a recommendation.

“We’ve taken one hotel off the table, and we’ve spread it over another 10 years, and we’re asking the city for more incentives,” noted Councilman Terry Morris.

Hansen said the developers would like to build another hotel but cannot guarantee it.

The incentives would come through property, hotel/motel, restaurant and food and beverage taxes.

The plan also includes a full-service restaurant, which has caught the attention of neighboring restaurant owner Joe Pecora. He owns Heroes West Sports Grill and expressed concerns that Hospitality Guru could get incentives to open a sports bar and grill next door to his business.

“It would leave a bad taste in my mouth to see a direct competitor in a deal with a 25 percent subsidy,” Pecora told the committee.

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