Compass Business Park: An Industrial Warehousing & Distribution Development
NorthPoint Development’s Compass Business Park at full buildout per maps obtained via NorthPoint Development’s website. We identified the road boundaries as well as subdivisions and landmarks that people will recognize. The industrial warehousing and distribution development would be less than 1 mile from Wilson Creek Elementary School and adjacent to a number of residential areas.
WHAT IS COMPASS BUSINESS PARK?
As originally presented and planned, Compass Business Park would be a warehousing and distribution development. This project would be similar to the warehouses that have popped up in Will County. Compass Business Park is proposed by Kansas City, Missouri developer NorthPoint Development.
However, the scope of this particular industrial development would be unprecedented at size spanning more than 2000 acres (95,832,000 SQUARE FEET). The size of this project rivals nearby Centerpoint in Elwood, which is one of the largest in the nation. It would be one of the largest ever built of its kind. To comprehend the size of this development, it would be approximately 3x the size of Midway Airport. All in between the villages of Elwood and Manhattan. The project would span from approximately Route 53 in Elwood east to Cherry Hill Road in Manhattan and from Manhattan Road south to Hoff Road (abutting Midewin Tallgrass Prairie).
Because it would be an industrial warehousing, distribution and light manufacturing facility, it would require industrial zoning. It must receive approval from the local municipalities (or Will County) to be built because the majority of the property is zoned A-1 for agriculture. Additionally, the roads within the park are not deemed truck routes and consist of gravel roads, unmarked country roads, and tar-and-chip roads, so those would need to be changed as well.
NorthPoint Development owns several parcels under the name “EGLPC”, which is an acronym for East Gate Logisitcs Park Chicago, and they hold options on several more. However, there are large tracts of land in between these parcels in which current landowners do not intend to sell to NorthPoint Development. A large portion of the land was previously owned by Lakewood Homes with plans for a residential subdivision; however, that project fell through. The same can happen with NorthPoint Development’s Compass Business Park — it is under no circumstances a “done deal.” Please understand that simply because they own parcels of land does not mean that their project will be built.
WAREHOUSING & DISTRIBUTION
This development would consist primarily of warehouses in which trucks would move goods to and from the distribution center to their destination. Originally, this project was not planned as an intermodal facility as it does not have its own rail access. This facility would gain access to the rail by connecting the warehousing project to the Centerpoint Intermodal. They would do this by building a bridge from their warehouses (which would be east of Route 53) over Route 53 to connect to the rail located within Centerpoint. Rail is a necessary component in the logistics movement because goods are brought in by rail. From the rail, goods are distributed to distribution centers/warehouses, and then on to the consumer. Because it would not have direct rail access, this project would rely on trucks to move goods.
(Of note: Walter Strawn Drive was temporarily closed in 2015 by the Illinois Commerce Commission due to the safety hazard presented when trucks would run into the railroad safety gates on a nearly weekly basis. Last year in March of 2017, the ICC proposed to permanently close Walter Strawn Drive. Opening Walter Strawn Drive – or building a grade separation (aka bridge) over it – will require ICC approval in addition to IDOT.)
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: A GRASSROOTS EFFORT
Originally, the massive warehousing and distribution project was kept in complete secrecy. Local residents learned of the project when it was leaked onto Facebook in June 2017 with the following picture:
NorthPoint Development first approached the Village of Elwood, likely because NorthPoint Development would need access to the rail in order to make their project successful. They would do this by building a bridge. Due to the location of the rail and where NorthPoint wanted to build their bridge, they would need the Village of Elwood to grant permission. The reason is that the land where the bridge would be built has already been annexed into the Village of Elwood, and as such, Elwood has jurisdictional authority. As we also mentioned, NorthPoint would need to also get permission from the ICC to build a bridge over the railroad tracks that run parallel to Route 53. They planned to do build that bridge at Walter Strawn Drive.
The rest of the project was proposed for unincorporated land that spanned between Manhattan and Elwood. This is why the boundary agreement issue was such a big deal. The project to the West of Ridge road would’ve fallen under Elwood’s control with the project falling on the east side of Ridge Road under the control of Manhattan.
Even though the majority of the project would’ve fallen under the control of the Village of Manhattan, NorthPoint did not approach them. Although the Village of Manhattan made several attempts to get a “seat at the table,” they were continuously blocked by the developer. NorthPoint simply was not interested in working with them until they had the first (and more important) part of the project secured.
Residents were also kept in the dark about the project. For the most part, the project was kept in secrecy, and attempts by the public to get more information were blocked, questions unanswered. This forced residents to submit FOIA requests to gain information. Those requests were often heavily redacted, at times incomplete, and time extensions were frequently used. As time went on, more pictures of the proposed project found their way online. Below is one of them:
DIVIDE AND CONQUER: lawsuits, animosity and more
Originally, as we mentioned, NorthPoint Development submitted an application for the annexation and rezoning only to the Village of Elwood. NorthPoint repeatedly said that they would work with Elwood and then Manhattan. However, they never attempted to get everyone at the table at the same time.
In March of 2018, it appeared that NorthPoint Development was planning with Elwood to have the entire project – despite planning beyond their agreed upon jurisdiction limits aka boundary agreement. As a result of that, the Village of Manhattan sued the Village of Elwood and NorthPoint Development. This lawsuit was later settled as the desired outcome — stopping negotiations and putting everything back to square one — was achieved.
As we researched this project, we found that NorthPoint Development used this same tactic in Kansas – going to one municipality and then the other. This would have allowed NorthPoint to leverage the acceptance of one community over the other.
Residents faced continued threats that alleged another municipality would take over the project — even when it didn’t make sense (see also: debunking Joliet Myth). These continued rumors even prompted Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk to go on record several times emphasizing that there is no deal with NorthPoint and the city of Joliet. NorthPoint Development also commissioned a robo-call that went out to residents, asking them if they would like to see Joliet gain the tax benefits (even though NorthPoint Development has historically received tax abatements in nearly every project they have completed).
You can view the application materials that were submitted to the village of Elwood here (link obtained via FOIA): https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-H5ZhQSILanyJNCVFmNhXHOs75fwX9ce
OPPOSITION GROWS to industrial warehousing DEVELOPMENT
Meanwhile, as residents continue to educate others and learn about the project, opposition to the project continues to grow.
A farmer’s protest parade was held with military vehicles and farm equipment. State Representative Larry Walsh, Jr. supported our efforts, as did Will County Board member Don Gould (District 6). Will County Executive Larry Walsh, Sr. also supported our efforts to stop the project.
Multiple taxing bodies came out against the project by making and passing formal resolutions against the project. Those taxing bodies include: Jackson Township, Manhattan Township, Elwood School District, Elwood Fire Protection District, and the Manhattan School District.
ELWOOD HEARING CANCELLED
Elwood held public hearings before the Planning & Zoning Commission which lasted for 3 nights totaling nearly 14 hours of testimony. Residents came out in droves to oppose the project. Media coverage included (but was not limited to) WGN, Chicago Tribune’s Daily Southtown, WJOL, The Herald News, and the Farmer’s Weekly Review. In the end, without any questions or deliberation, the Planning & Zoning Commission voted to recommend the project to the board. Since then, one of those commissioners has stepped down.
The Elwood Planning & Zoning Commission vote was merely a recommendation to the Village Board. It was simply an advisory body. The Village Board in Elwood would be the authority to determine the fate of the project. A Public Hearing before the Elwood Village Board was scheduled. However, it was cancelled in April 2018 by Mayor Jenco, citing a lack of board support for the project.
Despite being shut down by the Village of Elwood, NorthPoint continued to work quietly – closing on additional parcels of land in June 2018. They are intent on steamrolling the folks who live in the area as well as the local municipalities to get what they want – at any cost.
NORTHPOINT Development APPROACHES WILL COUNTY
Like petulant little children who didn’t get their way when mom said no, NorthPoint Development is now pestering dad for approval. They have approached Will County to request rezoning from agriculture zoning to industrial zoning. The warehousing and distribution center must have industrial zoning due to the nature of the work that would take place there. The new application to the county was submitted in July 2018.
It is important to note that the new application is for a 670 acre development. The new application does not include the nearly 700+ that NorthPoint owns closer to Manhattan. Do not be fooled into thinking that the warehousing development has been reduced in size. If they get approval for some of it, they will pursue the rest of it. Compass Business Park was never intended to be a 600 acre distribution center.
This new application to the county does not include the bridge that was previously included in project renderings. Remember, the bridge is what would connect NorthPoint Development to the rail and give it access to the interstate. Without it, the warehousing distribution center will rely on more trucks, and they will need to use Route 53 and other local roads, such as Manhattan Road and Hoff Road, to move goods.
Even though the bridge is not included in the new application, the ICC (Illinois Commerce Commission – regulating body) case for the proposed bridge is still open. NorthPoint has not withdrawn their application with the ICC. This means that they still intend to have the bridge — and that they will still need approval in Elwood.
APPLICATION MISSING CRITICAL INFORMATION
NorthPoint Development hired well known land use attorney Richard Kavanagh to represent them with their application to the county. The application submitted to the county was incomplete application. This application was missing critical information — which was no mistake. Kavanagh is not a rookie, and they were missing 15 points of critical information.
APPLICATION COMPLETED AT THE LAST MINUTE — more opposition from municipalities
On the eve of the deadline, NorthPoint Development finally completed their application and submitted it. Currently, we are waiting to learn when the public hearing will be scheduled. This would be scheduled by Will County within the Land Use department. Please stay tuned to our Facebook page and our website. Updates will be provided when available.
In the meantime, the Village of Elwood has filed a formal, written objection to the project. The Village of Manhattan vows to do the same at the November 5th board meeting (meetings are typically held on Tuesdays; however, due to the general election, the first meeting of the month was moved to Monday).
stay tuned… the fight is not over
The Just Say No To NorthPoint grassroots effort continues to grow with more people joining in opposition to this project. We will do our best to update this website as frequently as we can. Keep an eye on our public Facebook page and our website for updates and events. We also have a yard sign campaign going — be sure to request your sign to show where you stand!
Feel free to visit cbpark.com to learn about the project from the developer — just don’t forget they’re trying to sell you on it.