Hotel and conference center proposed for Joliet
By Bob Okon email@example.com May 14, 2013 12:21PM
Updated: June 16, 2013 6:21AM
A 200-room hotel and conference center has been proposed for Joliet.
The hotel with a banquet facility and full-service restaurant would be located near the Interstate 80 interchange at Houbolt Road.
The developer, Hospitality Guru Group of Aurora, is scheduled to go before the city zoning board Thursday and is expected to make a presentation at the Joliet City Council workshop meeting on Monday.
“What they’re trying to develop is a facility that will host conventions and conferences,” said City Manager Thomas Thanas.
The plan has not been completed, Thanas said. But the developer is contemplating break-out meeting rooms typically found in modern conference centers and a banquet space likely to accommodate at least 400 people.
It would add a new dimension to what is available in Joliet now and could enhance the city’s ability to attract conventions and confereces that go to similar facilities downstate, Thanas said.
“I don’t think we have a facility in Joliet that attracts that type of conference and convention,” he said. “That’s important for us because it will allow us to compete with Peoria, Quad Cities, Champaign, and other large cities in Illinois.”
The city will offer an incentive package for the developer. Details on those incentives are likely to be presented to the city council on Monday, Thanas said.
The complex would actually consist of two hotels. One would be a 120-room Holiday Inn. The other would be an 80-room Candlewood Suites. The two hotels would be connected to the conference center and also would share a restaurant and fitness center.
“We are long overdue for something like that,” Mayor Thomas Giarrante said, expressing an aspiration that the city has had for years to attract a hotel and conference center that would bring large meetings and conventions to Joliet.
Previous attempts had been made to bring a convention center downtown. This complex would be located near the Joliet Junior College Main Campus at an interchange built in the early 1990s with long-term aspirations to bring new development to the city.
The interchange has been developed with hotels, restaurants, gas stations and the Rock Run Business Park, an industrial and warehouse complex. The new project would bring the first conference center to that area.
New Councilman Jim McFarland, a former chairman of the board at Joliet Junior College, said the location was ideal for a hotel-conference center and suggested potential business related to the college.
“I think with a project of this size and with the junior college being so close, there are a lot of partnership possibilities,” McFarland said.
He said that the college’s culinary arts, hospitality and agriculture programs all could make use of the conference center for events. Noting that he is a member of the Exchange Club of Joliet, McFarland said that organization and others in the city look for facilities so they can host regional and even national conventions.
McFarland said he still has to see the details of the incentive package but in general supports incentives to spur economic development.
Most of the interchange area was developed as a Tax Increment Financing Disrict created in the 1980s in an attempt to pull Joliet out of the Rust Belt Recession that had devastated the city’s industrial base. The TIF has since expired, and there are no establised tax incentives in the area now.
The hotel-conference center would go on land in the northwest corner of the interchange owned by IDI, Inc., the developer that created the Rock Run Business Park.
Hospitality Guru Group also has hotels in Rochelle, Cincinnati, Corydon, Ind., and Janesville, Wis. The Janesville hotel is a Holiday Inn Express with a conference center.
The Joliet project is becoming public just a week after the city council approved a gas-tax rebate for a developer that will build a $5.5 million auto/truck stop travel center on Illinois 53 on the south end of the city. Thanas said he first began talking with the hotel developer in November.
Thanas said the two projects do reflect growing interest in development in Joliet, but nothing like the boom years that preceded the last recession.
“I started telling people in the third quarter of 2012 that I started getting calls that I wasn’t getting in my first 4 1/2 years as city manager,” said Thanas, who came on board in April 2008. “It’s a sign that things have turned around. But we’re nowhere near the robust period we had.”
The Joliet Zoning Board of Appeals meets at 1 p.m. Thursday and will hear a request from the developer for variances to accommodate the height of the hotel and its signs. The Joliet City Council on Monday will meet at 5:30 p.m. Both meetings are in the council chambers at city hall.