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PROGRESS AND DEVELOPMENT SET ROSEMONT’S STAGE

Mayor Brad Stephens’ annual “State of the Village” address continues to be the Rosemont Chamber of Commerce’s biggest draw of any annual program the organization presents.

More than 175 members and guests packed the ballroom at Rosewood Restaurant, on Thursday, September 11th, to hear the accomplishments of Mayor Stephens’ administration in the past year, and plans for the future.

The mayor began his report by introducing Dr. Christopher Burke, president of Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd., engineering consultant to the village.

An aerial view of Rosemont displayed on a screen in the center of the stage made it easy for the audience to follow Dr. Burke’s presentation.

First, he announced that the village’s road projects are nearly complete. Those projects include the repaving of local streets and the apartments near the Allstate Arena. The remainder of the construction is not under Rosemont’s control because it is being done by other sources, such as the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority.

Dr. Burke said that the Lee Street bridge is being widened as a part of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway construction, and is due to be completed by April, 2015.

The village also is working with the tollway to try to get an off- ramp constructed at that location.

Dr. Burke expressed empathy with office workers who are navigating the elaborate construction projects:

“I’m sure that those of you with businesses on the west side of town are suffering from the construction along Mannheim Road,” he said. “It is especially difficult for those who are located near the O’Hare International Center.”

Dr. Burke said that the Mannheim Road connection from Balmoral Avenue will be completed about the same time as the Mannheim Road construction, which is a year late. Now, it is not due to be finished before November of 2015.

Tollway-related work on River Road is proceeding; but officials have been pausing that construction when big events are taking place in town (such as the recent Garth Brooks concerts), so as not to impede traffic coming from MB Financial Park at Rosemont.

The construction near the retaining wall, by the residential area, will be finished at the end of this year’s construction season.

Mannheim and Higgins Roads will be pinched down in order to do some bridge work on 190, while Cumberland remains under construction until 2015.

Dr. Burke closed his presentation by reiterating that as much as Rosemont would like to see all of the road construction speeded up, it is not under the village’s control.

Mayor Stephens resumed the program with the three questions he is most often asked:

“‘What’s happening with the waterfall? When is Taco Bell going to open? And when will the road construction stop?”

The mayor said that the fountain at Higgins and River Roads has become “the gateway to the village.” He said water pressure issues were discovered during a refurbishing and they have to be dealt with now, in order to complete the project. He expects the fountain to be up and operating by next summer.

A dried-out, old, fuel oil tank was found underground at the Taco Bell site — on River Road and Gage Street – after the old building that stood on that site was razed. The tank has since been removed and hopefully, the restaurant will be under construction shortly and completed within 120 days thereafter.

The shopping center, just across Gage Street to the west of the Taco Bell site, has been purchased by the owners of A La Carte Enterprises, who will construct an 8,000 to10,000 square-foot Modretti’s restaurant that should open by the end of next summer.

The 155-room Hampton Inn & Suites hotel, on the northwest corner of River and Higgins Roads, is due to open in October, 2015. On the same site, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons will be moving their staff of 350 employees into the new $7 million, 180,000 square-foot headquarters by the middle of December, this year. The new garage on that site should be completed and operating at the same time.

The Mobil station, just across Higgins, on the southwest side of the same corner, is being upgraded and turned into a full-service mini-mart.

Another new project is a hotel development on the site where the old Wyndham stands, on Mannheim Road. Its developers are planning to split the hotel into two properties. Demolition is expected to begin within the next week and hopefully, a Hyatt Place hotel will open in July of 2015. The second hotel will be renovated later. But when those two properties are completed, Rosemont will have 17 hotels — the most in its history.

Additionally, the village owns 26 acres of land that stretches along the west side of

I-294, on the north and south sides of Balmoral. Village officials have been pursuing a public/private partnership to develop that property into space for more retail business, with a limited amount of space for office development and food service.

The mayor said that Rosemont has received enough inquiries for twice the amount of space available there.

“We will vet all those proposals to see which ones have the highest likelihood of success,” he commented.

Turning to the performance of existing village venues, the mayor proudly declared:

“The Allstate Arena is a major source of fuel for Rosemont’s economic engine.”

He added that Allstate has renewed its sponsorship agreement for another decade, for $15 million. By the end of that next contract period, Rosemont and Allstate’s partnership will have marked 25 years, making it one of the longest running relationships in the history of the entertainment industry.

“Just today, we reached a verbal agreement with the Chicago Wolves ( AHL hockey franchise) to renew their five year agreement with a five year extension option,” Mayor Stephens reported. “Don Levin, his organization and our staff are very happy that the Wolves are returning.

“We are very proud of the Chicago Sky, which was a finalist in the WNBA’s national championship competition, and we hope to renegotiate the contract that will keep the team here for another four years.”

The audience chuckled when the mayor exclaimed:

“Garth [referring to country music star, Garth Brooks]! I love that man. He performed 11 shows, attracting approximately 200,000 people to Rosemont in September. Our hotels were sold out and the average audience size came out to nearly a full house.”

The mayor continued his praise, this time, of the Allstate Arena staff:

“I can’t say enough about how good the staff is at the arena. That staff, plus Rosemont’s Public Safety Department and all those responsible for moving people in and out of the facility, are doing an excellent job.

“The entertainment industry’s top ranking services – Pollstar — includes Allstate Arena on its ‘Top 100 Arenas in the World’ list, and ranks it the fourth busiest arena in the nation, in the magazine’s July 21st edition.

“The Allstate Arena has produced $1.5 million in revenues ahead of 2013, and is just short of the record year they had in 2012,” the mayor continued.

“The Rosemont Theatre has an exciting line-up for the coming Fall and Winter seasons, including Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld, the Moscow Ballet and Mannheim Steamroller.

“The Donald E. Stephens Convention and Conference Center is doing well. Our ballrooms are on target for being renovated later this year. Our walkway is being redecorated and we just completed a renovation of the east parking garage to provide more alternatives for folks who want to park at the convention center.

“Speaking of the convention center this year — and I am very proud to say this – its revenues are up more than $4 million, compared to 2013, and just short of the record year they had in 2012.

“And once again, I am going to emphasize: We couldn’t be generating the revenues we are reporting without the commitment of our staff members at the village-owned facilities. Pat Nagle, Chris Stephens and all those at our village-owned and operated facilities are committed to providing the highest quality of service possible.

“MB Financial Park has yielded outstanding numbers. We just finished the Rockin’ in the Park summertime concert series on Thursday evenings. It was a tremendous success for us.”

Disturbia Screams, the haunted house and Halloween celebration will be featured throughout October, at MB Financial Park at Rosemont. And Frozemont is the name for all of the wintertime activities and attractions there. Polar Peak – a 40-foot hill that people can tube-down for fun – will make its debut. It is being installed right next to the NHL regulation-sized ice skating rink. Reservations and ticketing information will be available soon for Polar Peak. The attraction can accommodate up to 100 tube-down participants per hour.

“I am sure you have all seen our branding campaign, ‘It’s all here.’ The campaign’s ads have been seen by a huge number of people, raising awareness of all Rosemont has to offer,” the mayor added.

The last item on the Mayor’s list was a report of economic accomplishments:

“Last year, we added 101 full and part-time employees, bringing the total number of village employees to 726.

“In terms of the village’s overall numbers, General Fund Revenues are up 20 percent and Amusement Tax generated is up 40 percent. Sales Tax Revenues are up $3.1 million, which equates to a 92 percent increase, due in large part to the opening of the Fashion Outlets of Chicago/Rosemont.

“Hotel occupancy was up in 2013 by 10 percent and generated an increase of 6 percent in hotel taxes. We are bringing our revenues back to the highest level that we produced in the recent past.”

When asked about the current political race for the Governor’s Office, the mayor encouraged everyone to vote.

“Our state is in a bad way. Please make sure to vote.”When asked about further retail development of the Fashion Outlets of Chicago / Rosemont, the mayor said:

“We are seeing that the higher-end retailers are doing somewhat better than the mid-level retailers. We would like to get those executives and their companies – especially those who have never had outlets – set up shop here, as well. We are thinking there may be a niche for them more than there is for the mid-range retailer.

“We are very interested in unique, first-in-market brands.”

When an audience member queried the mayor on why he isn’t running for the office of governor, the mayor shot back:“If I was elected, what would I win?”

The audience gave him a standing ovation.

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