News - DeKalb County

DeKalb OKs secret ‘Project Wildcat,’ which could get tax breaks, break ground in fall

Project leaders won’t yet identify company behind 2.1M-square-foot food and beverage facility development

The parcel of land in the ChicagoWest Business Center just east of the Ferrara complex on Gurler Road in DeKalb Friday, July 16, 2021.

DeKALB – A 2.1 million-square-foot food and beverage facility dubbed Project Wildcat slated for the city’s south side earned DeKalb city support this week.

Those behind it remain tight-lipped about the company’s identity, though work on the secretive project is expected to begin this fall and bring with it hundreds of jobs.

The DeKalb City Council met Monday and approved a series of measures to start the process for the development at the ChicagoWest Business Center near Interstate 88. Among their requests, project leaders sought from the city authorization of an annexation and development agreement, annexation of certain properties into DeKalb and the approval of a zoning petition.

Project Wildcat will consist of two buildings constructed on three lots spanning about 160 acres of property, one of which will be occupied by a major food and beverage facility development. According to a city news release Thursday, phase one of the development is scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2024, with the building expected to be fully operational by 2025.

Work could begin right after Labor Day, according to the city, dubbing the timeline for the build “an aggressive construction.”

The ChicagoWest Business Center is already home to Ferrara Candy Company and the Meta DeKalb Data Center, the latter expected to bring in more than $1 billion of investment after announcing an expansion earlier this year. An Amazon distribution center is also under development in the area after the online retail giant paid $6.3 million last fall for nearly 59 acres on Gurler Road, the same land slated for what city leaders had previously only referred to as Project Barb, property records showed.

Plans for the other Project Wildcat two lots would occur in phase II of the project, but have yet to be firmed up.

Those involved are remaining mum about revealing the company behind the food and beverage facility development as of yet.

Mayor Cohen Barnes described the cooperation exhibited between project leaders and city officials as huge in helping the city land a major development – its fourth since late 2019. Barnes heralded community efforts through the city of DeKalb, DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation, representatives with development firm Trammel Crow Chicago Development and the ChicagoWest Business Center.

“The impact you all are making on our community is substantial,” Barnes said. “You should definitely be proud of the impact you’re having on over 40,000 people in our community. … I’ve enjoyed the partnership that we have had. I think it’s the trifecta of economic development.”

City Manager Bill Nicklas pointed out that City Council action will help enable the development to become part of the DeKalb County Enterprise Zone, an economic tool that outlines a geographical area to entice development to put down roots and reap potential tax incentives.

According to city documents, Project Wildcat will receive tax abatements through the enterprise zone once annexed. City documents stipulate that the property “is subject to Interstate Commerce Market property tax abatement for large-scale industrial projects within 3-1/2 miles of the centerline of Interstate 88, and the state level sales tax exemptions on building materials.”

Project leaders will remain responsible for paying the city for all applicable building and plan review fees, engineering fees and construction inspection fees.

Josh Udelhofen, of Trammel Crow Chicago Development and the ChicagoWest Business Center, acknowledged the speed at which the development advanced through the city’s review process and gave thanks to DeKalb city leaders for their time.

“[It’s] very exciting and moving at breakneck speed,” Udelhofen said. “And really it could not have been made possible for the city of DeKalb’s forethought, the economic development that was already put in place through the enterprise zone for DeKalb County [Economic Development Corporation] and all the great staff members that we’ve had the opportunity to work with.”

Udelhofen said project leaders are planning a groundbreaking event in about three or four weeks.

“We’re hopeful that spills over very quickly into the potential phase II of the project, which will be up to another million square feet on the west half of the 160 acres that you’ve seen,” he said.