Diocese holding firm on planned move
By Bob Okon email@example.com July 17, 2012 10:34PM
The Most Reverend R. Daniel Conlon, the newly appointed bishop of the Diocese of Joliet, answers questions Tuesday during a press conference in Joliet. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 19, 2012 6:36AM
JOLIET — The Diocese of Joliet’s plan to move its offices out of town won’t be budged, Mayor Thomas Giarrante said Tuesday after a meeting with the bishop earlier in the day.
But the diocese is talking with the University of St. Francis about possible future uses of its Joliet buildings, Giarrante said.
And Crest Hill Mayor Ray Soliman said the diocese has proposed retail development on a portion of the property it has acquired in that city.
Both mayors met Tuesday with Bishop Daniel Conlon in a last effort to try to persuade the diocese to change its plan. Giarrante wanted to keep the diocese offices in its namesake city. Soliman wanted to preserve the Crest Hill property for future commercial development for the sake of new businesses and tax dollars.
But both mayors acknowledged that the diocese is not turning back from the plan announced in May to consolidate Joliet and Romeoville operations in Crest Hill at a new but unused strip mall that has been languishing in foreclosure.
“I think we all made our points,” Giarrante said of the meeting with the bishop. “But the bottom line is the project is going to go on as planned.”
Besides the blow to the city’s prestige in no longer being home to the diocese, Joliet officials have been concerned about the empty buildings that could be left on Summit Street once the diocese leaves the chancery and tribunal buildings there.
Giarrante said he was told that the diocese is talking with the University of St. Francis about possible uses for the buildings.
Meanwhile, Soliman said he walked away from the meeting pleased that the diocese may set aside some of the Crest Hill property for retail development.
He said Conlon proposed two outlots on the southwest corner of the site for retail. There are six outlots on the property, and Soliman hopes the diocese will consider making more land available for commercial use.
“We made a little bit of progress, but we still have some progress to make for the citizens of Crest Hill,” Soliman said.
He also asked the diocese to consider participating with the city in a program in which the church, which does not pay property taxes, would offer some payment to the city in lieu of taxes. Crest Hill has estimated that the property could generate $100,000 a year in sales taxes if it was fully developed.
A diocese spokesman could not be reached Tuesday night for comment.