Joliet, Crest Hill mayors to meet with bishop on diocese move
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org July 4, 2012 4:04PM
Updated: August 23, 2012 9:55AM
It may be too late, but the mayors of Joliet and Crest Hill will meet with Bishop Daniel Conlon this month to suggest alternatives to the plan to move diocese offices.
The Diocese of Joliet plans to consolidate its offices into a new, but empty Crest Hill strip center it acquired out of foreclosure.
The plan would fulfill a longtime effort on the part of the diocese to move all of its offices into one location.
But Joliet Mayor Thomas Giarrante wants to persuade the diocese to stay in its namesake city.
Crest Hill Mayor Ray Soliman wants to keep the strip center along Weber Road available for future commercial development, which would bring in tax revenue that the nonprofit diocesan offices would not.
Both Giarrante and Soliman said they believe they still can make a case for altering the diocese’s plans when they meet with the bishop July 17.
“We’re going to see if we can still keep them here,” Giarrante said.
However, a spokesman for the bishop said that it’s too late to change the plan, which also includes the sale of the St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Center in Romeoville to Lewis University.
The Romeoville building actually houses 80 percent of diocesan workers, although the bishop and his staff work in Joliet.
“We’ve closed on the (Crest Hill) property, and we’re committed to Lewis that they’ll get the other property,” spokesman Doug Delaney said.
Delaney said the meeting with the mayors is to discuss future uses of the Joliet buildings and ways in which the diocese will be “good neighbors” for the city of Crest Hill.
The diocese plans to make the first move into Crest Hill in about a year. That would involve moving staff from Romeoville and out of two Joliet buildings — the chancery and the tribunal buildings on the near West Side. Catholic Charities, now located downtown, would move to Crest Hill sometime later.
Delaney said the move to the Crest Hill strip center was the most affordable option. Building new or redeveloping existing properties in Joliet would have been too expensive, he said.
“We really tried to find a property in Joliet,” Delaney said. “We were interested in using the Catholic Charities building. But it’s millions and millions of dollars that we don’t have.”
The mayors met recently with the chief financial officer of the diocese to discuss options. Soliman did not want to discuss details, but he said there are alternatives that can be presented to the bishop.
“Since the bishop is the decision maker, myself and Mayor Giarrante certainly want the opportunity to sit down with him and share our thoughts about the property,” Soliman said.