RANTOUL — Further development of the South Murray Road area near Walmart Supercenter in west Rantoul is expected to begin this spring.
Rural Rantoul farmer/businessman Joe Warner said work will begin on the 45-acre Stonebridge commercial property west of Murray Road plus a project east of that area.
A Holiday Inn Express and an assisted-living complex will be part of the initial construction, Warner said, and possibly later, a strip mall, restaurants and condominiums.
Warner said the poor economy delayed development of the project, but an improved economic climate has put the enterprise back on the front burner. He has been seeking to develop this area of west Rantoul for more than 10 years and proposed building a motel near Walmart in 2009. Warner has also proposed residential and commercial developments in Paxton.
"We see the economy turning to the better," Warner said. "With everything that's coming to Rantoul, that the city has brought to Rantoul, the expansion of the factories and ... all the new businesses, we feel it's time for this development."
Stonebridge Drive will run south and west of Walmart and then curve around north of the store to connect with Broadmeadow Road.
The 70-room Holiday Inn Express will be built west of the Walmart.
Warner said that project is a "99 percent" certainty.
The assisted-living complex will go up east of Murray Road and south of the Church of Christ on an 8-acre tract.
Warner said a feasibility study is being conducted.
"If it comes back OK, we would do the Holiday Inn and assisted-living at the same time," Warner said.
"The assisted-living complex is a pretty sure thing we're going to put that there. (For the Holiday Inn Express), we're in stages of completion with a company that is in the hotel business and has several hotels and has received awards for their service, for cleanliness and management. They've been in the hotel business for many years."
A Chicago company will conduct the feasibility study, which will consider such factors as population, average income, number of residents age 65 and older in Rantoul and surrounding communities and the number of assisted-living facilities in the area.
The assisted-living complex would accommodate about 50 residents.
Later, Warner hopes to develop a strip mall and bring in a sit-down restaurant and possibly other restaurants to that area.
Near the assisted-living units he hopes to build condominiums.
The projects on the west side of Murray Road received village approval several years ago but will have to go through the review process again due to the time lapse.
Warner said Rantoul has been cooperative in assisting the development.
"The mayor and (Village Administrator Bruce) Sandahl, I couldn't ask for anything better than the cooperation that I'm getting from the city," Warner said, noting that the financial stability of the village in recent years is an attractive draw to prospective businesses.
Sandahl credited Warner for his patience to see the project through.
"We have spent a great deal of time talking with prospective commercial retail developers to assist Joe to see it come to fruition," Sandahl said.
Mayor Neal Williams said he is "very, very pleased to see this come to fruition."
"This is something we've been working on for quite some time with Mr. Warner and his developers," Williams said. "We look forward to seeing opportunities grow in and around the area.
"Hopefully this is a sign that the economy is coming around, getting better ... and would allow additional growth."