Development pitched for I-55/Route 6 in Channahon
By Jeanne Millsap Correspondent November 27, 2012 1:12PM
Trucks and cars make their way across the Route 6 overpass over I-55 in Channahon, IL on Tuesday November 27, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 4, 2013 6:05AM
After years of the village aggressively marketing the site and several developers showing interest then later balking at development there, Channahon’s “front door” most likely will get the go-ahead for key issues necessary for retail development at the village board’s December meeting.
The developer, Bluestone Retail Partners LLC, wants to develop the 13.7 acres of the Hammel farm at the northwest corner of the Interstate 55/Route 6 interchange with a 6,500-square-foot Thornton’s convenience store and gas station. The proposal is for 24 automobile fueling stations and five commercial fuel positions.
Bluestone CEO and President Rick Claes presented plans to the village board during a public hearing recently and said he also will market the property to either two quick service restaurants and a limited service hotel or to three restaurants if a hotel chain is not interested.
Former mobile home park
The property has long been a thorn in the side of village officials, who had hoped what they considered prime real estate would have been a sought-after property after the closing of the Treasure Island Mobile Home Park about a decade ago.
But due mostly to considerations of frontage road traffic and the cost of the road’s realignment and a too narrow bridge on Route 6 over I-55, interested developers dropped plans for retail there.
Bluestone, however, has incorporated northwest frontage road realignment into its master plan for the site’s retail development.
Currently, IDOT is conducting a Phase 1 study on the frontage road work, but according to Channahon Community Development Director Mike McMahon, Bluestone plans on accelerating the process by applying for an IDOT permit for the reconstruction of the road itself. It will be a private-public partnership between the developer, the state and the village.
This could knock years off the completion of the road, with 2013 being devoted to Bluestone’s designing, and work potentially beginning as soon as the spring of 2014.
In Bluestone’s agreement with Channahon, should it be approved by the board, final site approval will take place only after IDOT approves the engineering of the realigned frontage road.
The big unknown, however, is whether IDOT will approve a traffic signal at the new intersection of that northwest frontage road and Route 6, where it will line up with the current southwest frontage road.
Having a signal there is key, trustees say, to getting traffic under control at the site.
The Pilot Travel Center on Route 6, east of the interstate, has caused many headaches and safety concerns from residents and the police department.
Traffic at the I-55 interchange is also notorious for backing up on the narrow bridge and on the southbound exit ramp to the frontage road.
Resident Al Woods has been a frequent visitor at village board meetings, warning trustees of the potential dangers of Pilot truck traffic short-cutting through neighborhoods and other Pilot traffic concerns. He also has similar concerns about this travel center’s traffic.
“I hate to say it,” Woods told trustees, “but we got stuck once with these truckers, and we got stuck bad … How are these guys going to get back on 55? We’re going to have all the same problems we have now with Pilot … I’m just skeptical on this thing.”
Trustee Judie Nash said she would not give her approval on the project for similar reasons, one of which is the narrow bridge, which will not likely be widened for some time.
“I think we are inviting more truck traffic and bottleneck,” she said. “I can’t support it right now … I wish I was more hopeful. I just am really concerned that we’re putting the cart before the horse.”
Nash also said the choice of placing a gas station/truck stop at the gateway to Channahon is a poor one, especially as the village considers the concept of “branding” Channahon to attract a certain retail clientele.
Channahon businessman and member of the Channahon Economic Development Corp. Mike Rittof told the board the CEDC supported the project as an asset to the community, but asked to have a say on the “Welcome to Channahon” sign branding.
A combination of the creation of a tax increment finance (TIF) district and a business district on the property will help Bluestone develop it. Channahon already has hired a firm to conduct a study on the creation of those districts, and its report to the board is expected by early spring.
The districts should take in the Hammel property, along with some of the properties to the north and just east of the interstate, McMahon said.
The tax-producing potential of the development is estimated to bring in $800,000 to $1 million in retail tax per year.
Developers are in a hurry to get the project approved. They said the Hammel family has given them only until the end of December to close on the property.