JOLIET – Construction of a Joliet hotel and conference center that has been the subject of both fanfare and controversy started quietly this summer.
Hospitality Guru Group is developing a Holiday Inn Express with a conference center near the Houbolt Road interchange with Interstate 80.
The project has been applauded for bringing conference and banquet space to town that would attract small conventions and other events to boost visitor traffic to Joliet.
The group plans to build a Candlewood Suites hotel in the future depending on how the Holiday Inn Express performs, said Dave Mackley, director of inspections for the city of Joliet.
Aurora-based Hospitality Guru Group would not discuss the project other than to say that it is expected to open in summer 2017.
City officials, however, said the project is going forward as previously planned, except that the developer decided to forgo city incentives.
“That also negates the obligation to use prevailing wage workforce on the project,” City Manager Jim Hock said.
Hospitality Guru Group a year ago sought to increase the incentive package, which originally was calculated at $2.4 million, to $6.5 million because of the estimated cost of meeting the prevailing wage requirement that went with it. The City Council never approved the higher incentives, and Hospitality Guru eventually went ahead without them.
Hock said the city and Hospitality Guru remain on good terms and that the city is working with the developer on building permits and other matters needed to complete construction.
The project has been in the works since at least May 2013, when Hospitality Guru publicly presented plans for a hotel and conference center essentially the same as what is in the works today.
The plan is for two hotels: the 120-room Holiday Inn Express and the 80-room Candlewood Suites. The conference center would be in the middle of the two hotels, but Guru at one point decided to hold off construction of the second hotel until the market for the Holiday Inn Express was established.
The project also includes a restaurant, which led to a controversy over the potential impact on neighboring Heroes West. The owner of Heroes West objected to a portion of the proposed incentive package that offered a break on food and beverage taxes for a restaurant that would be a direct competitor in the same business area. The city eventually restructured the proposed incentives to accommodate the concern.
The total cost of the project has been estimated at between $20 million and $25 million.