Take a look around Joliet at what’s happening now

Some of the best laid plans just take awhile

Some things that have taken a long time to get done are getting done lately around Joliet.

I thought about that after a news conference last week when state legislators past and present gathered at the Rialto Square Theatre to announce a $5 million state grant for the theater.

State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, said he and other legislators have been trying to get state money for the theater at least since 2012 when he was first sent to Springfield.

I remember past Rialto board meetings in which Chairman Robert Filotto would give monthly updates on the quest for state funding, and there was never much to update other than that efforts were ongoing.

“Just a lot of people have been involved in making this happen,” Filotto said at the news conference, which he called “a landmark day” for the Rialto.

Look around and you’ll see some other landmarks in progress around town.

Big plans get to be kind of like big jokes before all of a sudden something is getting done.

How many years was there talk about building a Houbolt Road bridge over the Des Plaines River before former Gov. Bruce Rauner came to Joliet in 2016 to say it would be built?

Even then, Rauner’s estimate that the bridge would open by early 2019 was very premature. But the bridge is being built and will open next year.

The reopening of Chicago Street was batted about for years in studies on how to improve downtown Joliet to the point that it seemed a wistful thought.

But Chicago Street was opened in November 2020, and now the city is working on plans for a Chicago Street plaza that will add green space downtown.

Will this lead to the revival of downtown Joliet that people have been looking for since stores began to leave in the 1970s for the new indoor malls?

Actually, downtown already is seeing new life from a new generation of entrepreneurs. It’s not the central shopping district that it was when I was a kid, but it is progress.

On the topic of private business, what has seemed more futile than the desire among Joliet residents to see an Olive Garden restaurant come to town? That, too, became a joke.

Last year, Olive Garden announced it was coming and will locate in The Boulevard along Route 30.

Interstate 80 is being updated. Lanes will be added. The Des Plaines River bridge will be replaced. The Chicago Street interchange will be rebuilt.

Many will say it’s about time. But the time is now.

More may be on the way.

Cullinan Properties has added 46 acres to its Rock Run Crossings project at Interstates 55 and 80, which is now at 309 acres.

So far not a store, restaurant, hotel, movie theater or other element of the project, which is on its second developer since 2008, has been built. But the way things are going, now may be the time it gets done.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News