Waiting it out

Communities along I-355 corridor poised for economic uptick

Rex Robinson | 10/30/2013, 4:42 p.m.
Plans for The Promenade Bolingbrook shopping center at Interstate 355 and Boughton Road were already in the works before the ...
A sign touts the proposed Cedar Crossing retail development planned to go up between the Silver Cross Hospital medical campus and the Veterans Memorial Tollway extension interchange at Route 6. Photo by Rex Robinson

Plans for The Promenade Bolingbrook shopping center at Interstate 355 and Boughton Road were already in the works before the south extension of the expressway became a reality on Nov. 11, 2007.

It was the vision of Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar and the village board to tie a new shopping mall into, what was then, the new Veterans Memorial Tollway extension and the village began shopping the plans to developers at just the right time.

While the Promenade has been a success from the start and continues to thrive, there has not been much other commercial development along the expressway’s southern extension connecting Interstate 55 near Bolingbrook on the north to Interstate 80. This is mainly because the economy tanked not long after the expressway was built and it has yet to fully recover.

Lockport has seen some fast food restaurants and strip centers pop up just west of the interchange, but city officials certainly would like to see more.

Officials from at least two other communities south of Bolingbrook along the Veterans Memorial Tollway extension also are hopeful the economy will soon make a comeback and reignite interest from developers along that leg of I-355.

Homer Glen has initiated a study of the 159th Street corridor, which includes future plans for a possible hotel development at the west end of the corridor where 159th Street connects with I-355. The village has held a number of public hearings on the 159th Street corridor study, including one this past Tuesday evening. The Community Workshop and Open House held Tuesday was the “final group interactive opportunity for the public to engage in the study’s planning process.”

Route 6 in New Lenox is the next southern stop along the I-355 extension. The major development there is Silver Cross Hospital, which was built two years ago after the hospital outgrew its Joliet location.

“It’s not just a hospital up there. It has become a huge medical campus and that attracts development,” New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann told The Times Weekly.

The campus, in addition to the hospital, includes a 200,000-square-foot medical office building, the Ann & Robert Lurie Hospital of Chicago (formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital) as well as the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Treatment Center.

Village officials see the hospital campus and the interchange as the perfect combination to spur development of the surrounding vacant property.

“We want to have in excess of one million square feet of retail once the economy comes back,” Baldermann said. “We want that whole corridor to expand and we have a distinct advantage as we are the first stop off I-80 when heading north on I-355.”

According to Nancy Hoehn, the village’s economic development director, prior to the downturn in the economy there were many retail projects that were “ready to go” along the I-355 corridor, but many retailers delayed those plans once the economy slowed. Now, she said, the tide is starting to turn.

“It’s the village’s goal to see that interchange developed with mixed-use projects driven by as much retail as the market will support,” Hoehn said.