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Local News

A new Joliet car row? CarMax plans to join Hawk Auto on Route 59

CarMax to west side with Hawk Auto

A third car dealership is on its way to Route 59 with some speculation that more could come.

The city showed its willingness to incentivize the trend on Tuesday when the Joliet City Council Economic Development Committee gave a green light for a $3.7 million tax rebate package for CarMax, which wants to put a dealership at the corner of Theodore Street.

The deal, which still requires approval by the full council, tops a $3.5 million incentive package given to Hawk Auto a year ago.

Hawk Auto this summer will move its Mazda and Subaru franchises from Jefferson Street to a dealership facility under construction at the corner of Caton Farm Road.

“We’re on track to open in late June or July,” Hawk Auto President John Crane said.

The “target market” for Mazda and Subaru brands “match up very well for that Joliet-Plainfield-Shorewood corridor,” Crane said.

Route 59 runs through the three towns.

If there was one drawback to the location, Crane said, it was a concern that the Hawk location would be isolated from any kind of car row that could draw buyers.

That begins to change if CarMax follows through on its plan to open a dealership in Joliet by June 2022.

CarMax expects to sell 161 cars a month by its fifth year in business on Route 59, which “far exceeds units sold at other dealerships in Joliet,” Jason Pruitt, a real estate manager with the company, told the Economic Development Committee.

Pruitt said CarMax now sells more than 80 cars a month to Joliet-area customers who come to its dealerships in Naperville and Tinley Park.

“By opening a store in Joliet, that will help Joliet retain those sales,” Pruitt said, adding that the Route 59 store would draw business from other towns, too. “We wouldn’t just be generating sales from residents of your city. We’d be generating sales from a very wide area.”

CarMax is the nation’s largest used-vehicle dealer with more than 200 locations. Joliet officials seem eager to bring the company to town.

“If we don’t make this deal with CarMax, perhaps they would start looking at other communities and see what they would offer,” Joliet economic development specialist Derek Conley told the committee.

Joliet lifted a cap it previously put on incentives for car dealers after it lost Thomas Toyota to Romeoville. The Hawk Auto deal was put together at a time that the dealer was looking at another Route 59 site in Plainfield.

However, City Council member Pat Mudron objected to the $200,000 in extra incentives that Car Max was getting over Hawk Auto, which, he said, has proved its dealerships are “good neighbors” by sponsoring events and activities in Joliet.

The committee voted, 2-1, for the incentive package with Mudron voting no.

Mudron noted later that there has been talk in town of another Joliet dealership relocating to Route 59. If so, the street would begin to rival Jefferson Street, the city’s traditional car row where Hawk also has Chevrolet, Cadillac and Volkswagen dealerships.

Crane has talked about the possibility of attracting a new car brand to his
Route 59 site, saying that he has enough land for a third dealership.

Finding room for more dealerships on Route 59 – at least the part that runs through Joliet – could be a challenge because so many homes were built close to the highway in past decades, Economic Development Committee Chairman Larry Hug said.

“There’s not a lot of land left on [Route] 59 in Joliet,” Hug said.

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