Joliet council to vote on $103 million bond issue for Rock Run Crossings

City counting on future development at I-55 and I-80 to pay off bond costs

JOLIET — Joliet could be on the hook for at least a portion of $103 million in bonds the city is about to issue to support the Rock Run Crossings project depending on how well it does.

The City Council votes Tuesday on a development agreement for the 309-acre project to be built at Interstates 55 and 80.

The agreement provides that the city issue $103 million in general obligation bonds to fund roads, water mains and other infrastructure needed for the project. Tax dollars generated by new development, sales and other business on the site would be used to pay off the bonds.

“That’s the plan,” Joliet Finance Director James Ghedotte said Monday after a council workshop meeting at which there was a brief discussion of the agreement.

When asked what would happen if the project did not generate enough tax dollars to pay off the bonds, Ghedotte said, “The city would have to pay the difference.”

The agreement is with Cullinan Properties, which plans to develop the land with stores, restaurants, hotels, offices, warehouses and more. Hollywood Casino is rumored to be interested in moving its Joliet operation there.

Cullinan announced one signed tenant, Regal Cinema, in 2019 but not another since.

City Manager James Capparelli said while there has been little public discussion of the agreement there have been “one-on-one sessions” with council members to explain details.

Development agreements typically go the the council’s Economic Development Committee for review.

Economic Development Committee Chairman Larry Hug said he did not know why city staff never sent the Cullinan agreement to the committee for review. But Hug said his understanding is that the city would be obligated to pay off any portion of the bonds not covered by Rock Run Crossings tax dollars.

“If there’s not enough revenue provided by the project itself, then the obligation is on the city,” Hug said.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said the agreement includes “some safeguards” for the city, although he did not elaborate. O’Dekirk said he has signed two confidentiality agreements related to the project, and he was limited in what he could say about it.

The city and two developers have been trying to open the heavily traveled site at the crossing of two interstates that traverse the length of the nation since at least 2008. Plans have always called for some form of public investment to open access to the site.

Construction of an upgraded interchange to provide access from I-55 is slated to start this year.

The bonds would pay a portion of the interchange costs. They also would fund improvements on Olympic Boulevard to create better access from Houbolt Road on the east end of the project, as well as roadways, stormwater detention and the extension of city water mains.