U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Chicago, announced support for the Compass Business Park on Thursday, a sign that support for the project is being organized as residents in the area organize opposition.
Rush's 1st Congressional District stretches southwest from Chicago into the 1,260 acres that NorthPoint wants to annex into Joliet for the Compass Business Park.
"This project holds more promise and potential than any other development under discussion in the state right now and will have an immediate and positive impact for the entire metro area," Rush said in a news release.
Rush's statement focuses on the economic potential of the project, saying it could generate more than $2 billion in tax revenue over 20 years and cites estimates that it will create 1,600 construction jobs and 15,000 full-time jobs.
The release does not address the large numbers of residents in Manhattan and Elwood who oppose the project. It does claim the NorthPoint plan will reduce truck traffic by 40 percent by putting warehouses closer to the two intermodals in Joliet and Elwood.
Stephanie Irvine, a leader in the Just Say No to NorthPoint organization that held a town hall meeting Monday to organize opposition to the project, questioned how familiar Rush was with the area.
"When was the last time he was down here?" Irvine asked. "Because I think he's clearly out of touch with the reality of what we've been seeing."
Rush examined the area in a helicopter trip provided by project managers for the Compass Business Park, said his spokesman Jeremy Edwards.
Edwards said Rush believes the Compass Business Park will improve the lives of local residents by taking traffic off of local roads.
"I understand that some people are opposed to it, but we're more focused on people who support it including statewide building and labor groups," Edwards said.
Building trades unions have supported NorthPoint's plans in Elwood, which rejected an annexation plan for the Compass Business Park in 2018, and in Joliet, which approved a 103-acre rezoning that became the toehold for the proposed annexation.
The grass roots opposition was instrumental in stopping NorthPoint's plan for Elwood, and the same effort is being made ahead of a Feb. 24 special meeting of the Joliet Plan Commission, which will consider a recommendation on the project.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for NorthPoint said Rush's announcement is not likely to be the last public endorsement.
"We're confident that more stakeholders and elected officials will support the project," spokesman Scott Burnham said.