JOLIET – Sometimes it’s hard to tell if West Jefferson Street is on the way up or on the way down.
But a lot is happening on the street that is one of Joliet’s busiest commercial corridors.
Two new restaurants are planned with the prospect of more to come.
Other businesses have tried to open, too, but the Joliet City Council in recent months blocked a liquor store and a custom car shop, deeming them inappropriate for the locations.
Meanwhile, Hawk Auto is making plans to move two car dealerships off the street, opening the potential of large vacancies that could be added onto the empty Kmart space that was vacated more than a year ago.
Council member Pat Mudron, whose district includes a long stretch of the street, said he does not consider Jefferson Street vacancies to be a problem today.
“But I think it’s something we should be concerned about,” Mudron said, noting the possibility of the two Hawk Auto locations and Kmart all being vacant at the same time.
For now, he’s encouraged by the interest shown in opening new businesses on Jefferson Street.
“I do think people from the outside are looking at that street. They know how busy it is with good traffic,” Mudron said.
Jefferson Street activity in recent months have included businesses to come, businesses to go and business plans denied.
• Basinger’s Pharmacy laid out plans in September to build a 13,746-square-foot store at 2219 W. Jefferson St., which is the current site of the Senor Tequila restaurant. Basinger’s, which would move from its location in the Marycrest Shopping Center, has not started construction.
• Construction did start in September on a 11,900-square-foot medical building at 1530 W. Jefferson St.
• Hawk Auto in December revealed plans to move its Volkswagen and Mazda dealerships off Jefferson Street as it sought and received
city incentives to build new dealerships at another Joliet location on Route 59.
• Plans for a 12,000-square-foot Joliet Market liquor store were foiled in December when the city council agreed with Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Bob O’Dekirk that the vacant strip mall space at 2155 W. Jefferson St. was not a good spot. A representative from Basinger’s Pharmacy had said their new store, which would include liquor sales, would not be built if Joliet Market opened.
• In January, the council turned down a special use permit for another Jefferson Street plan when it decided a vacant auto parts store at 2409 W. Jefferson St. was not a good spot for Crusader Customs, which wanted to expand its car accessory business by moving to the location.
• Also in January, plans for two new restaurants – Beef Shack at 1606 W. Jefferson St. and Nick’s Gyro at 1350 W. Jefferson St. – were presented to the city. Both would fill spots that are now vacant. The Beef Shack will occupy a restaurant building that has been vacant for five years. Nick’s Gyro plans to build new, demolishing the building that was used by the Bob and Sis’ Catering before it closed last year.
• A Jefferson Street controversy emerged just last week when the city council voted to give a 10-year extension for a billboard at 2323 W. Jefferson St. City staff wanted the billboard to come down, saying it was out of compliance with standards and noting a past order for it to be taken down by April.
Councilwoman Jan Quillman, who voted against the billboard, said the issue matters because of ongoing efforts to spruce up Jefferson Street.
“We’re trying to revitalize Jefferson Street and get the businesses involved because it’s a gateway to Joliet,” Quillman said.
Quillman said residents in the neighborhoods that border Jefferson Street – the Cathedral Area, St. Patrick’s and Reedswood – want to see improvements in the commercial district.
“We have to get a handle on it and not just let anybody put anything there,” she said.
More business plans are being made for Jefferson Street.
Joliet Economic Development Director Steve Jones said plans are being made for one or two more fast-food casual restaurants.
A potential developer of the Kmart site at Jefferson and Larkin Avenue has a contract to buy the property, Jones said. The plan, he said, would involve dividing up the Kmart building or demolishing it for multiple businesses and could include the development of outlots in the large parking lot.
The Hawk Auto dealerships also could be put back to use when Volkswagen and Mazda move to Route 59, he said.
“Hawk has a broker, and we’re getting inquiries on them,” Jones said. “Certainly, the interest is there.”