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State of the city: Joliet ‘renaissance’ continues in 2018

Brock A. Stein | 2/12/2018, 4:55 p.m.
Joliet's renaissance will continue in 2018 according to the city's mayor Bob O'Dekirk who gave his state of the city ...
Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk gave his state of the city address at the JJC Renaissance Center this week. Photo by Brock A. Stein

By the spring, a new downtown train station will be open, demolition of the site where a new county courthouse will be built will be under way, and a vast mixed-use development near the intersection of I-80 and I-55 could be moving ahead creating 8,000 construction jobs and bringing $1.2 billion to the economy over the next 20 years.

Those are just a few of the major projects expected to fuel the City of Joliet’s renaissance in 2018 said Mayor Bob O’Dekirk at his annual state of the city address this week at JJC's Renaissance Center, 214 N. Ottawa St.

O’Dekirk said that the train station is the latest example of the renewal of the downtown that’s been happening over the past couple of years and that residents should expect more of the same this year.

“That renaissance is going to continue in 2018,” he said with more announcements of new restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.

The city has seen a number of new projects come to the downtown over the course of 2017 including the dedication of the new courthouse in November, a partnership with Will County, which is expected to begin construction of a new 10-story building this year. The city expanded its downtown Special Service Area and TIF districts to encourage more reinvestment and could consider a further expansion on W. Jefferson and Ruby Streets this year said the mayor.

In addition, the city inked an intergovernmental agreement with Will County that paves the way for the reopening of Chicago Street, something O’Dekirk said is “crucial towards opening up down town” and “the city has talked about this for years”

“In 2017 we stopped taking about it and we did it,” he said.

People coming to the downtown will find more stuff to do including visiting the 2 microbreweries that opened in 2017. MyGrain opened in the former Union Station in September and Elder Brewing Co. on Cass Street in October with both drawing “younger people in to our city” said O’Dekirk. He noted that Elder Brewing, which opened on Cass St., represents re-investment in areas just outside of the downtown and “new money coming in to old neighborhoods.”

Entertainment options expanded in 2017 as well with the Rialto Square Theater, under new management and with a new board of directors, booking sold out shows and drawing bigger audiences.

“A year ago the future of the theater was murky,” said the mayor, noting the “great strides” the new management has made in the past year.

O’Dekirk also noted the new music venue The Forge which booked 167 shows since opening last April, and the added crowds that have come to the downtown thanks to the City Center Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce and the Joliet Public Library which had a hand in organizing Star Wars Day, Kidzfest, Fiesta en la Calle, and New Orleans North.

The city also hopes to attract more attendance to its recently-rechristened Route 66 Stadium with the investment in new artificial turf that it hopes will make the facility more versatile for uses outside of hosting Joliet Slammers games.