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Local News

Bolingbrook mayor 'not excited' about potential Amazon project

Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar was "not excited" about Amazon purchasing a large piece of property in the village in January of 2020.
Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar was "not excited" about Amazon purchasing a large piece of property in the village in January of 2020.

Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar did not appear enthusiastic about news of Amazon's recent purchase of the former site of Old Chicago amusement park.

The e-commerce giant bought the property at 200 Old Chicago Drive for $50.5 million last month, according to Will County property records.

Claar spoke about the purchase at the village board of trustees meeting on Tuesday.

"We were not excited about their proposed use," he said at the meeting.

He also disclosed details about the potential project. He said Amazon wants to construct an 850,000-square-foot building.

"Now that's big," Claar said.

Claar said that's about the size of the fulfillment center in Romeoville. The company also has facilities in Joliet, Crest Hill, Monee and another one planned in Channahon. He added the company wants to make the building about 100 feet high.

Owen Torres, an Amazon spokesman, declined to comment about the company's plan for the site.

"Amazon is a dynamic business and we are constantly exploring new locations and weighing a variety of factors when deciding where to develop future sites to best serve customers, however, we have a policy of not commenting on our future roadmap," he said in an emailed statement. "This land purchase in Bolingbrook provides us with the flexibility to quickly respond to our future network needs."

Claar pointed out some other potential problems he saw with a fulfillment center coming to that area.

He pointed out there was already a lot of traffic at the location, just south of an interchange with Interstate 55, and several businesses and restaurants.

Claar also said the project should bring about 1,500 jobs and Amazon would pay workers $15 per hour. He acknowledged on the surface it "looked pretty good," but then said $15 an hour was "not even a living wage."

The mayor also said the property was not properly zoned for a fulfillment center. It is zoned for commercial use, according to the Bolingbrook village website. Claar also said the village has a height restriction on buildings.

Claar called the potential building a "monstrosity." He also sounded concerned by other property purchases Amazon was making in the Chicago area.

"They're buying property up everywhere," he said. "And of course at the same time they're doing that, we're losing retail stores because of what Amazon does."

Trustee Bob Jaskiewicz said he also had concerns about the size of the building, but thought if the logistical problems could be worked out, it could "be beneficial for both sides.

Claar said Amazon had yet to submit a formal proposal for the site.

"It may not be popular to resist that kind of a building, but I cannot support it personally," he said.

The site is best known for housing Old Chicago, a part-indoor amusement park and part-mall, that attracted visitors during the mid to late-1970s. When it opened in 1975, the thousands of guests created "mammoth traffic jams" according to the Bolingbrook Historic Preservation Commission website.

Despite the excitement, the complex was marred by financial troubles and closed in 1980, according to the commission. Claar gave a brief history of the Old Chicago site during Tuesday's meeting.

"It was really ahead of its time because Old Chicago was really what you see at the Mall of America," Claar said.

Claar said the complex sat idle for a while before the building was torn down. The property was then empty until a car auction company bought the property.

The mayor said the last owner of site, Manheim Arena, closed it last year.

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