ELWOOD – Hundreds of residents showed up to hear from NorthPoint Development on Tuesday afternoon and evening during an open house regarding the company’s proposed $1.2 billion industrial park.
Within the first hour or two, well over 100 people went through a five-station arrangement NorthPoint assembled at Elwood Village Hall. The arrangement was designed to familiarize residents with the company, the proposed park, how it would function and its benefits to the village and surrounding area.
“We have not made any submission to the village at this point,” a NorthPoint official said before an introductory video played in the first station.
Compass Business Park would be on the east side of Route 53 and stretch all the way into Manhattan at full buildout.
NorthPoint believes the park would have the potential for 15,000 jobs upon completion of the park, with 1,200 to 1,600 construction jobs while the park is built out in phases over an approximately 10-year span.
The plan for Compass features a bridge over Route 53 that would provide the only truck access to and from the park. Once inside the park, a “closed loop” would restrict trucks from exiting onto local roads.
To leave the park, trucks would travel over the bridge and follow a preferred route onto Interstate 55 and the future Houbolt Road Bridge onto Interstate 80. Walter Strawn Drive at the intersection of Route 53 would remain shut down.
NorthPoint Vice President of Development Patrick Robinson admitted the project may be surprising to some, but added NorthPoint has paid attention to the Safe Roads Illinois campaign and Elwood’s promotion of it, as well as the area’s concern for increased truck traffic since CenterPoint opened in 2000.
With that in mind, NorthPoint has proposed the gateway bridge it would pay for to keep truck traffic off of local roads.
“It’s one of the only absolutes we have,” Robinson said, referring to the proposed bridge over Route 53, noting that much of the current proposal is still up for debate.
Robinson said he has been in the Elwood area for the past 18 months to two years as the company has worked toward acquiring land. His first trip to the village was in 2007.
Between 300 to 400 acres of the proposed park are already closed on while 2,000 to 2,200 are under contract, Robinson said.
Elwood Village President Todd Matichak said there has been a mixed reaction from residents so far, adding the proposal is still in the information-gathering stage.
Matichak was elected village president April 4 and said Tuesday he first heard of the Compass proposal in mid-April. He was surprised to hear of it.
“I saw the proposed map, and at that point information was very minimal,” Matichak said, adding the map of the park has changed. “I keep learning, asking a lot of questions and I try to get as many meetings as I can.”
Matichak was adamant there is no agreement between the village and NorthPoint, adding it has been “emotional” for some east of Route 53 to learn of the proposal because they have lived and farmed the area for so long.
Matichak said a lot of residents have a “bad taste” in their mouths because of CenterPoint. He said he and the village board will vote, if and when the time comes, on what is best for the village.
“If it’s not good for the village, we won’t do it,” he said.
Will County Executive Larry Walsh Sr. was one of about 250 people who had signed a petition against the park as of 4 p.m. The Walsh family owns and farms land near where the proposed park would be.
Bobby Hauert, who lives on Mississippi Avenue and says he would have truck traffic “right in front” of his home, started the petition. He said probably 80 percent of people he spoke to are against it.
Hauert is concerned that as a village, Elwood can only grow residentially to the east of Route 53. He said the village is limited by a variety of industrial uses on the western edges of its residential areas, as well as Joliet to the north.
“We need more residents,” Hauert said. “And if this development comes in, within 15 years, I’m gonna say we would no longer have a grade school because of flight. People not being in the community to support it.”