NorthPoint pushes for state intervention

Developer has a history of seeking governor’s help in local battle over proposed Elwood bridge

Gov. JB Pritzker is resisting calls for him to intervene in favor of NorthPoint in the developer’s dispute with Elwood over a future Route 53 bridge.

NorthPoint and its advocates have been urging the governor to step in and take state control of the Elwood road that the developer wants to use for a bridge needed for the controversial Compass Global Logistics Hub.

On Friday, Pritzker’s press secretary issued a statement urging NorthPoint to work out its differences with local communities “before asking the state to step in and take rare and drastic measures.”

NorthPoint advocates contend forced state takeovers of local roads are routine, although a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Transportation said the only known instance occurred on a temporary basis.

NorthPoint has been seeking allies for state intervention since at least June 2019, when Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk signed a letter urging the governor’s support for a NorthPoint-built bridge over Route 53 months before the project was even brought to Joliet for consideration.

The bridge is key to the closed-loop system NorthPoint contends will reduce truck traffic in the area. NorthPoint’s development agreement with Joliet to build Compass Global Logistics Hub requires that a bridge be built. But the spot where NorthPoint wants to build it leads onto Walter Strawn Drive, a road controlled by Elwood. And Elwood doesn’t want the bridge and the trucks that it will bring.

In June 2020, U.S. Senators Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth sent a letter to Pritzker concerning the proposed bridge and urged him to take “swift action” and “assume jurisdiction and responsibility for a stretch of existing road in the development area” to move the project forward.

Meanwhile, opponents of the project urge the governor to resist calls for intervention.

“Municipalities deserve to be in control of their own decisions about land use and development, especially when it comes to expanding an industry which has already been incredibly harmful to the region.,” states a letter to Pritzker from 31 organizations, including Warehouse Workers for Justice, Just Say No to NorthPoint and the Sugar Creek Hills Homeowners Association.

The letter was dated Feb. 21, the same day an editorial in the Chicago Tribune called on Pritzker to intervene on behalf of NorthPoint, arguing the project was needed for jobs and economic development.

“The Northpoint development is a complicated transaction that would require sign off from multiple municipalities, the people who live in these communities and their representatives in the General Assembly,” Press Secretary Jordan Abudayyeh said in the statement emailed Friday on behalf of the governor.

“Gov. Pritzker prioritizes economic development in every region of this state and is pleased to see many communities engaged on moving forward with this project. The administration would encourage the corporation to engage the other municipalities and work to persuade them this is in the best interest of the people they serve, before asking the state to step in and take rare and drastic measures,” Abudayyeh said.

A NorthPoint spokesman would not comment for this story.

Jordan Kielian, attorney for the village of Elwood, said the developer is seeking the governor’s help at the same time it is claiming in Will County Circuit Court that it has a contractual right to build the bridge. The claim now being contested in litigation with Elwood is based on a previous village agreement with CenterPoint Properties regarding land along Walter Strawn Drive that NorthPoint now owns.

The agreement says nothing about a bridge, Kielian said.

“On the one hand, they say they have a private contractual right,” Kielian said, “and on the other hand they want the governor to swoop in and take over this local road.”