DeKALB – Kathy Kivisto is curious about how a potential development on 343 acres of land in the ChicagoWest Business Center near her home on DeKalb’s south side could affect her neighborhood.
City officials have said the property, where site work is well underway, could soon be the home to an international confectioner, about 1,000 jobs, and a whole lot of truck traffic. Although there aren’t many neighbors of the site, those with homes in the immediate area are among the most keenly interested in what changes the new development will bring.
“I’d like just someone to be honest with me,” Kivisto said, standing in her living room in the 3200 block of Route 23 on Wednesday. She and her neighbor live near the intersection of Gurler Road and Route 23, and she’s worried about being on the front lines when truck traffic attempts to access Interstate 88 from the industrial park.
DeKalb officials for months have been competing against a similar-sized city in Wisconsin to lure a Fortune 500 international confections company to the city. Dubbed “Project Hammer” because the name of the company is not yet known, the project would provide an economic boost for DeKalb County. In addition to new jobs, it could generate millions in new property tax revenue, and lead to a slew of infrastructure improvements to accommodate the increased activity in the area.
Local and state officials are working on how they will manage the inevitable traffic increases. They say they will take concerns of residents such as Kivisto into account. Many residents, even those who have voiced concerns, have said they understand the benefit the development would bring to the area.
Kivisto, 60, has been vocal at city meetings about her concerns. She said she worries that she’ll lose her front yard or that truck traffic will block her driveway and devalue her home, which she purchased 15 months ago after her husband passed away. She said many of her neighbors feel the same way. Some spoke at city meetings with her.
“I know we need the jobs,” said Kivisto, who’s driveway is on Route 23, and the closest to the development near a portion of Gurler Road which allows for 18,000 ton traffic. “They just don’t see what I see.”
Kivisto’s immediate neighbor is at the intersection of Gurler and Route 23, with a driveway on the portion of Gurler that restricts road traffic to 15 tons. When asked, the homeowner said he has “no opinion on the matter, but time will tell.”
Traffic control plan
City staff, state representatives, ChicagoWest owner Krusinski Construction Company, and the Illinois Department of Transportation are collaborating on a traffic study, along with road improvements that will likely be needed if the new employer chooses DeKalb.
“We have asked for two studies,” City Manager Bill Nicklas said. “We’re just waiting for it to be complete.”
Nicklas said the plan is for truck traffic to travel east on Gurler to access I-88 from Peace Road, instead of turning them toward Rt. 23, although nothing is yet set in stone.
“People have spoken who live in those homes saying, ‘we hope you take our concerns into consideration,’ and we are,” Nicklas said. “They’re working different scenarios, going with what they can from the information the company’s provided, the design of the distribution center and manufacturing center.”
Gurler, which has the only direct access to the three building sites that will house a manufacturing and distribution center, along with a 175-truck bay and a third operations building for the confectioner – will be widened from Peace Road to Route 23 to add a center turn lane, Nicklas said.
State Reps. Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore) and Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) are working in Springfield with IDOT and to procure state funding to pay for widening Gurler, along with work likely needed where Gurler intersects with Peace and Route 23.
“Tom and I have the authority to award a grant to get the city where it needs to be,” Keicher said Wednesday. “We’re trying to see if we can get a better proposal and better infrastructure plan from either IDOT or the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. So from the legislator standpoint we’re there, and we will make sure it happens.”
The city has a 50/50 sharing agreement with IDOT for the Gurler Road expansion, Nicklas said. City Engineer Zac Gill said the grant is dependent on job creation. Employment is also a condition of the tax abatements for the confectioner to keep employment at a certain threshold.
Gill said he hasn’t seen the final plans yet, but plans for the Gurler Road expansion would be similar to what Fairview Road looks like near Park 88.
“It will look similar to Fairview, where you have a single dedicated direction each way,” Gill said. “And then you have that by a directional left-turn lane. There also will be right turn lanes as necessary. There’s a right turn lane for Nestle on Fairview.”
Demmer who, like Keicher, is in full support of the project and its economic opportunities, said he believes the funding will come through.
“I think there’s support form the Governor’s office,” Demmer said, adding it’s too early to put a price tag on the road projects. “I think this has been a good example of how local and state governments have been working together for several months.”
This article has been updated to include proper references to Route 23, and the locations being referred to here, which are homes at the corner or Route 23 and Gurler Road, and Gurler Road improvements from Peace Road to Route 23. The Daily Chronicle regrets the errors.
Source: The Daily Chronicle