JOLIET, IL — For the past decade or so, there's been talk in Joliet of a gigantic proposed development called Rock Run Crossings near Interstates 80 and 55, but nothing ever happened.
In March of 2019, Cullinan Properties invited numerous Joliet and Will County politicians, news media outlets and area businesses leaders to gather under a tent to mark the start of construction.
That Friday afternoon, Cullinan representatives had a couple of Caterpillar bulldozers on hand to roll small mounds dirt in the fields as Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk and most of the Joliet City Council attended the ceremonial groundbreaking festivities.
Then, everyone went home and the property just sat there. Nothing happened. No construction. Nothing.
Five months later, Joliet Patch produced an opinion column on Aug. 15, 2019, headlined, "Rock Run Crossings Is Joliet's Fake News Event Of 2019."
The column stated: "Cullinan Properties tricked the Joliet area into believing the Rock Run Crossings mega-development and a world-class movie theater was ready to start, when it wasn't. Three words come to mind to describe this Joliet debacle. Snake. Oil. Salesmen."
Now, 19 months after the pretend groundbreaking ceremony, groundbreaking for the Rock Run Crossings mega development is underway and it's real. It's definitely real. The construction is easy to see for northbound I-55 motorists heading toward Shorewood and Plainfield from Channahon.
On Wednesday afternoon, several workers with J. Russ & Company, were busy performing mass site grading and excavation across the sprawling 265-acre parcel. At the site, Joliet Patch came across an older Shorewood man who was sitting inside his white pickup truck, just watching all the earthmoving equipment zipping back and forth on the open farm field.
The man told Patch he had been waiting 10 years to see this development come to fruition.
Russ & Co. is a family-owned local contractor that belongs to the Contractors Association of Will and Grundy Counties. Russ employs operating engineers, laborers and teamsters. In other words, all the Joliet work is union.
City of Joliet officials were pleased to learn that finally, Rock Run Crossings is being built.
Mayor O'Dekirk said the state of Illinois has approved the funding to put in a new interchange exit near I-55 and I-80. Without a new interchange, the project would never happen, the mayor said. At the moment, the only way to get to Rock Run Crossings is along the East Frontage Road.
Parts of the gravel road have potholes the size of moon craters.
"It may turn out to be the biggest private investment in the city of Joliet's history," O'Dekirk remarked Wednesday. "We are going to see a new I-55 exit. Without the interchange, this probably doesn't go any further."
Surely, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the Cullinan Properties project for Joliet, the mayor said. However, it's his understanding that Cullinan has agreements in place with a number of entities that will open stores, restaurants or businesses once the construction is done.
"They're confident their plan still works," the mayor added.
What is Rock Run Crossings?
RETAIL & DINING: More than 500,000 square feet
ENTERTAINMENT: More than 120,000 square feet
PROFESSIONAL OFFICES: More than 200,000 square feet
HOTEL AND LODGING: More than 300,000 square feet, more than 500 guest rooms.
MULTI-FAMILY: 600 UNITS:
TOTAL DEVELOPMENT: 265 acres