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Wayne's Words: Business opportunities abound for city

Wayne Horne | 10/16/2014, 7:46 a.m.
The city of Joliet is considering three deals, one of which could bring 60 jobs.
Wayne Horne

Economic development is on the agenda at this week’s Land Use Committee meeting. There are three items on the agenda that have been previously discussed at council meetings, one of which brings the promise to Joliet of up to 60 jobs.

Several weeks ago, Illinois Marine Maintenance Corp., identified at the time as Eagan Marine, was invited to present a proposal to the city council. The company had originally approached Councilman Bob O’Dekirk regarding the possible use of a piece of property the City of Joliet owned that was located on the Des Plaines River just south of the Interstate 80 bridge over the river.

The company proposed to move its operation from Lemont to Joliet if a solution could be put together. The company performs emergency environmental response cleanup and containment services.

The city obtained the parcel of land in 2010 from the U.S. General Services Agency as excess Federal government property. The city was restricted in the use of the parcel according to the provisions of the property transfer. It stated the Joliet property could not be sold, leased, assigned, or otherwise disposed of except for use by another government agency.

Due to the restrictions in the deed, no one at city hall pursued any use for the property beyond possible record and city equipment storage. Since the property contained possible environmental hazards, the city decided not to spend any money on remediation. The city essentially abandoned any reclamation of the property.

Since that Joliet City Council meeting in September, all concerned parties have worked out a Commercial License Agreement that will not only provide jobs but also restore the property to a useful purpose with no expense to the city of Joliet.

Part of the agreement contains a provision that will allow IMO to provide certain services and emergency watercraft for the City’s use. At the September Council meeting IMO offered to provide first responder hazard training to select city employees at no cost to Joliet.

The two other proposals up for discussion at the committee meeting concern two restaurants in the City Center on Chicago Street. One, Juliet’s, is already open for business. Both developers are being considered for agreements that would rebate 100 percent of the food and beverage tax based on the business improving the property where they are located.

They would also be eligible for Tax Increment Financing that would enable each business to meet part of their expenses based on fund revenue that abates property taxes on businesses located in the TIF area.

The new restaurant that will be known as Lockdown Bar & Grill will also receive a building renovation credit equal to $250,000. The City of Joliet owns the building and will convey its interest in the property for the building renovation credit.

Essentially, the building is free since the renovation of the property would be necessary anyway. Interestingly, the city originally sold the property to the previous owner for $1. When that business failed, it was unoccupied for several years. When the owner died, the city bought it back from the deceased owner’s estate for about $200,000.

Don’t you just admire government acumen when it comes to business? Stay tuned…