Joliet Diocese to be moving to Weber Road location
By Janet Lundquist firstname.lastname@example.org May 11, 2012 3:34PM
Updated: June 14, 2012 8:22AM
CREST HILL — The new owner of the pristine, vacant strip mall on Weber Road in Crest Hill is focused on higher things than retail.
The never-occupied shopping center was purchased by the Diocese of Joliet, which plans to consolidate staff from three other sites there.
It will be called the Blanchette Catholic Center, named for Bishop Romeo R. Blanchette, the second bishop and a Joliet Diocese native.
“We had hoped to stay in Joliet, but we also have to be good stewards, and the purchase of this new building in Crest Hill was just too good to pass up,” said Bishop R. Daniel Conlon in a news release.
The property was scheduled for an auction May 2, but the diocese bought it first.
“Someone saw the great deal it was. In this case the diocese stepped up,” said Bryan Gay, the city of Crest Hill’s economic development director. “We were kind of hoping to see retail going in, but it is what it is.”
Built in 2008, the development was bank-owned, having been in foreclosure.
Despite having a couple of stores ready to open there at one point, Crest Hill never issued an occupancy permit for the site because one access drive off Long Meadow Drive was built about 4 feet too narrow, city officials said.
By the time the development was ready, the economy had crashed and the users had moved out.
The three buildings — a combined 43,160 square feet of space — four outlots and nine additional acres were scheduled for auction May 2, with the bidding starting at $1.5 million.
The property once was worth up to $14 million, according to auctioneer Rick Levin.
The diocese plans to add 25,000 square feet to connect the buildings and move in about a year, according to the press release, issued Thursday. The future of the chancery building on Summit Street and the Diocesan Tribunal building on Bridge Street has not been determined.
The former shopping center will be big enough to house the entire staff except Catholic Charities, but the diocese hopes to expand in the future to accommodate that office.
“We’re happy, obviously, to have the center opening. It’s a group that seems like they’re going to be good stewards of the facility,” Gay said. “We had always envisioned this as a retail center. But we’ll take the jobs and we’ll take the traffic and see what best we can do.”
Besides buying the Crest Hill property, the diocese is close to a deal to sell the St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Center in Romeoville to Lewis University.
The school has been leasing a portion of the center, which is adjacent to the campus. It has about 140,000 square feet of space on 40 acres, and includes classrooms, meeting rooms, a dining room, residential living space, a chapel and a gym.
The diocese expects to get enough money from the sale of the Borromeo building and other buildings to pay for the Weber Road site, Conlon said in the release.