ROMEOVILLE – Future site of Romeoville Toyota.
It might take some getting used to, but that’s what a sign reads at the southwest corner of the Weber Road-Grand Haven Circle intersection.
For the first time in more than 20 years, a new car dealership has located in Romeoville. It’s expected to open in the spring.
“It’s very exciting to have our first new car dealership in our community,” Romeoville Mayor John Noak said. “We hope that this opens up other opportunities, too.”
Crews broke ground in early June on the 5.8-acre site, which will be home to a 46,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Toyota dealership run by the Thomas Auto Group. That same family has operated Thomas Toyota in Joliet for years.
Three different municipalities – Romeoville, Crest Hill and Joliet – were vying for the dealership at different points.
Ultimately, Romeoville emerged on top. New car dealerships are coveted by officials because they usually are significant sales tax generators capable of anchoring an entire commercial strip.
Joliet Deputy City Manager Steve Jones said Thomas Auto Group told Joliet that Toyota corporate leadership wanted the dealership on or near Weber Road. Car makers often do in-depth studies to determine the best location for a dealership, but Jones said he has no knowledge of those findings or whether Toyota wanted to be closer to Interstate 55.
Thomas Auto Group did not return a call from The Herald-News on Friday and hasn’t responded to similar attempts related to previous stories about their Toyota dealership.
Before Jones’ arrival in Joliet a couple of years ago, city officials had been in talks with Thomas about using an economic incentive package to help Thomas expand its dealership on Larkin Avenue, but it never materialized.
“In my two years, Thomas never came to us with an ask,” Jones said. “So my guess is that the overriding issue was the location – [corporate wanted] something on Weber Road or close to Weber Road.”
According to previous Herald-News reports, one city official said more than two years ago that Thomas was being urged by car manufacturers to relocate closer to an interstate. The new Romeoville location is about 4 miles
south of the Weber Road interchange with I-55, and about 5 miles directly north of the Joliet dealership. Larkin Avenue becomes Weber Road outside Joliet.
Romeoville came through with an economic incentive agreement with Thomas. The village will reimburse the dealership 70 percent of sales tax revenue collected for the first five years the business is operational in Romeoville.
During years six through 10, the sales tax rebate rate will be 60 percent. Between the 10th and 30th years, the rate will fall to 50 percent. The total reimbursement amount will not exceed $8.2 million.
The two parties agreed to a 10-year sponsorship rights deal with Romeoville Toyota that allows the dealership to sponsor part of Edward Hospital Athletic and Events Center at 55 Phelps Ave. The village will collect a sponsorship fee of $50,000 to be paid in equal installments of $5,000 per year.
Romeoville also convinced Thomas Auto Group to rename the dealership Romeoville Toyota as part of the agreement.
“It’s a credit to the Thomas family for being open minded on that concept,” Noak said. “It’s mutually beneficial. It gives people a clear distinction of where the dealership will be.”
Joliet in 2000 created a tax incentive program to encourage dealerships to stay in the city after Ron Tirapelli Ford and Tyson Motors moved to Shorewood. In both situations, the dealers expanded their operations by moving to larger locations at the I-55 interchange with Jefferson Street.
Hawk Subaru is now looking to move off of Jefferson Street and to Route 59 in Plainfield.