JOLIET – A Colorado company is proposing a downtown campus providing incubator space, housing, a STEM school and even a playing field for Millennial-generation entrepreneurs.
Joliet is considering a yet to be disclosed incentive package for the project that would go to the City Council for a vote on July 18.
The campus would vary in size between 2.7 acres and 4.6 acres depending on whether it was located on the riverfront or on city owned property near the new transportation center under construction, according to preliminary plans from Innovation Pavilion.
Plans include several buildings totalling between 116,000 square feet and 201,000 square feet.
The Joliet campus would be one of the first, if not the first, such campus for the Centennial, Colorado-based company that was formed five years ago.
The project is just being unveiled publicly, although city officials have been meeting with representatives from Innovation Pavilion for months.
The basic idea is to create incubator space where young entrepreneurs would develop business ideas on a campus where they would also live and in an environment where they could socialize without the need for automobiles, Philip Hsiao, director of corporate innovation management at Innovation Pavilion, said.
"The Millennial wants to be able to work and engage with the community in a walkable and bikable environment," said Hsiao, calling Joliet "the perfect location" because of its proximity to Chicago. "We want the campus to have access to the metropolitan area, but it will be a stand-alone ecosystem."
One plan calls for an 11-story residential building overlooking the Des Plaines River. The other proposes four buildings at least three-stories high with 75,000-square-feet of "Millennial housing. A 65,000-square-foot STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) school would be located nearby.
Innovation Pavilion is looking for Joliet to invest $200,000 in development money with the idea that a campus would be fully built out in two to three years, Hsiao said.
"We want the city to be committed," Hsiao said. "They have to be very serious. It's a very long-term process."
Joliet officials, including Mayor Bob O'Dekirk, visited the company's Centennial offices in September. and were impressed with the prospects of the campus plan, said Joliet Economic Development Director Steve Jones.
"It's got outrageous potential for multi-use development," Jones said.
Jones would not discuss what incentives Joliet is considering for the package. He said the city plans to make the incentive package public for the first time at a July 13 meeting of the city council's Economic Development Committee. The committee's chairman, Councilman Larry Hug, was among those who made the trip to Colorado.
Innovation Pavilion would make a presentation to the city council at its July 17 meeting, and the council would vote at its regular meeting the next day.
Hsiao said Innovation Pavilion wants to develop its concept in "ring cities" near major metropolitan areas. The company also has proposals pending in Olathe, Kansas outside Kansas City and Parker, Colorado in the Denver area.
Innovation Pavilion now operates out of one 80,000-square-foot building in Centennial, which provides incubator space for 75 companies, Hsiao said.