John Bays isn’t the only developer thinking about adding hotel rooms in downtown Joliet.
Bays, who acquired the Two Rialto Square building in December, has said he is interested in putting a hotel there, although it may keep office space in half of the building.
What he does may depend on what happens elsewhere. There are two other tentative plans for new hotel space – one outside Harrah’s Casino and the other in the old Barrett’s Hardware store, according to a city official.
Bays said he is interested in premium hotel space and is concerned that a similar project could be built at Harrah’s.
“I don’t want to spend millions of dollars on this, and then they’re going to put up a Marriott right next to me,” he said.
Actually, it could be three hotels or none at all. Bays still is waiting to hear from architects before he decides what to do with Two Rialto Square.
Joliet Economic Development Director Steve Jones said the other two plans are too tentative to confirm.
“There’s some momentum,” Jones said. “We’ll have to see if the hotels reach a point where a project is imminent.”
Jones said he has advised all potential hotel developers of the other two plans so they are aware of the possible competitive environment.
The Harrah’s plan, which would be done by a group separate from Harrah’s, is to put a hotel on the lot across from the casino now used for valet parking, Jones said. The plan for the old Barrett’s store is to renovate the building for a name-brand hotel, he said.
Harrah’s Casino is the only hotel operator in downtown Joliet now.
The momentum for another hotel is generated in large part by demand for hotel space at Harrah’s, Bays said.
“Harrah’s tells me they need more hotel rooms, and they really need them bad,” he said.
Bays acquired Two Rialto Square on Dec. 13 from the Will County Metropolitan Exposition Authority, the entity that oversees the Rialto Square Theatre. The Rialto Square Theatre building was not sold.
He is considering hotel space on the top three floors of the building, while retaining the bottom three floors for renovated office space.
Bays said he plans to build premium hotel space that would serve not only casino customers, but also people who go to shows at the Rialto and concerts at The Forge nightclub, which is in another building he owns downtown.
“I think I could put a hundred hotel rooms there,” he said. “I think it would do well.”