One and a quarter million square feet of vacant office space in West suburban Lisle have been empty for more than five years since Alcatel-Lucent moved out. So some area residents were thrilled when Navistar announced its intention to buy the property and move its world headquarters to the site.
"You don't get many opportunities to get Navistar world headquarters in your region and this would be the biggest real estate deal in the country this year," said Ray Kinney, area business owner.
It would have been - except Navistar pulled out of the deal citing strong opposition from a group of residents who lives nearby. Rich Wilkie says he and other residents are worried about environmental issues, including emissions from a proposed engine testing facility Navistar would put on the site.
"We've always welcomed Navistar into town as long as Navistar is a corporate office. But this industrial facility is not something that's consistent, there's nothing like it in Lisle," said Rich Wilkie, Lisle resident.At stake are an estimated 3,700 jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue for the region and the state. That's why Kinney started a Facebook page urging residents who he calls the silent majority to try to convince Navistar to reconsider.
"Those are houses being sold, those are dollars being spent and restaurants and dry cleaners and all sorts of benefits," said Kinney.
A deal could be in the works. Navistar officials met Monday with several political leaders, including top aides to Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Gov. Pat Quinn, to explore whether a compromise is possible.
"We wouldn't have a meeting today if the deal was totally dead. Yeah, so we are looking at these options," said Don Sharp, Navistar V.P.
Navistar's current headquarters in Warrenville has about 250,000 square feet. The proposed location in Lisle has nearly five times that amount of space. Company officials say they urgently need the extra space and need to make a decision quickly.