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Joliet gives $103 million ‘go’ to Rock Run Crossings

Cullinan executive calls council-approved project ‘a game changer for the region’

Joliet — The city’s confidence in the Rock Run Crossings project will make Joliet “the gateway to Chicago,” a developer told the City Council on Tuesday.

Cullinan Properties Chairman Diane Cullinan Oberhelman made the comment as the council prepared to vote on an agreement that includes a commitment to issue $103 million in city bonds to fund public improvements for the project.

The vote was 6-0 to approve the agreement with two council members absent – Larry Hug and Jan Quillman.

Rock Run Crossings is the project to develop 309 acres in the northeast corner of the crossing of Interstates 55 and 80 with stores, restaurants, hotels, offices, entertainment venues, warehouses and multi-family housing.

The city has been trying to open the tract to development since at least 2008, seeing it as a potential destination site drawing from a market that could extend deep into the state.

“This is historic and very exciting to create a vision for the gateway to Chicago that is truly a game changer for the region” Cullinan Oberhelman said.

Council members acknowledged some concerns about the agreement that would leave the city on the hook for paying off the bonds if Rock Run Crossings does not develop as planned.

“This is different than anything we ever voted on, but it is, I think, the right thing to do,” Council member Pat Mudron said.

The general obligation bonds are to be paid off with property taxes, sales taxes and other tax revenue generated as business comes to the development. But the city is obligated to cover bond payments if tax dollars from Rock Run Crossings fall short.

The council vote reflected council confidence that Rock Run Crossings will pay off, but the development agreement reflected some hedging.

The agreement includes a “minimum project” clause requiring Cullinan to develop a certain amount of non-industrial space by the end of 2025. The amount of space was expanded to accommodate council concerns to 500,000 square feet on Tuesday, a change from the 350,000 square feet in the agreement on Monday.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, however, noted that Rock Run Crossings is the sort of project the city wants to see developed at the interstate crossroads.

“This has been a long process – five or six years to get here,” O’Dekirk said. “I want to thank you for choosing Joliet and sticking with us through this entire process.”

Cullinan Properties is the second developer the city has worked to develop the area since California-based O & S Holdings gave up on the plan after the 2008 recession. Cullinan bought the property from O & S in 2015.

The Cullinan project has been slow-going.

The first future tenant, Regal Cinemas, was announced in 2019, and no other tenant has been announced since.

But Cullinan and city officials have said development depends on construction of an improved I-55 interchange, which is now underway and to be completed by 2024.

Cullinan senior adviser Chris West emphasized that the developer has been busy on the site for the past two years, grading land, adding detention ponds and doing other infrastructure work.

Noting the size and location of the site, West said, “Sometimes, it’s very difficult to see all the [construction] equipment that’s out there.”