USF may want diocese buildings
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org July 18, 2012 3:10PM
Updated: August 20, 2012 11:50AM
JOLIET — The University of St. Francis is interested in the diocese buildings that will be vacated in about a year but is only exploring the possibility now, President Michael Vinciguerra said Wednesday.
“Exploring would be the better word,” Vinciguerra said. “We are not definitely buying at this point.”
He described the university’s talks with the Diocese of Joliet as “very preliminary.”
Mayor Thomas Giarrante this week noted the university’s interest in the property after announcing a last effort to persuade the diocese to stay in Joliet was unsuccessful.
The diocese is relocating its offices to Crest Hill, where Mayor Ray Soliman also opposed the move because the nonprofit organization will acquire space that had been slated for commercial, tax-producing development.
Soliman on Tuesday, however, said he was heartened by Bishop Daniel Conlon’s willingness to develop two outlots for retail use.
A diocese official Wednesday said the diocese would be careful about what type of stores or restaurants would go onto the site.
The diocese also may be wary of complying with Soliman’s desire to see more of the six outlots on the property go retail.
Mike Bava, chief financial officer for the diocese, said the diocese is trying to “create a positive identity” with its new location after having its operations scattered for years at different locations in Joliet and Romeoville.
Also, Bava said, the diocese will need lots of parking at the new site, which is at Weber Road and Division Street. The new property will consolidate operations now split between the Joliet buildings on Summit Street and the St. Charles Borromeo Pastoral Center in Romeoville, where most diocese business actually is conducted.
“We’ve had meetings at the pastoral center where we’ve had 800 people,” Bava said. The diocese has 120 parishes stretched across seven counties, and Bava said diocese-wide meetings can bring in people from each parish.
While the mayors did not get what they wanted in the Tuesday meeting, they both said they walked away feeling that Conlon respected their concerns about the impact of the move.
The diocese issued a statement saying in part, “The parties will keep lines of communication among them open.”