Standing in front of the Park at Rosemont, a partially built development that will bring six new bars, a bowling alley, movie theaters and a comedy club to Rosemont, Mayor Brad Stephens reflects on his late father, the village's founder and former mayor.
"My dad would say, 'When is that nightlife crap going to pay off for you? When is that baseball park going to work?' " says Mr. Stephens, hoping he'll soon be able to say, "Now. Now it's paying off."
The words hang over him. So, too, do words from state authorities that the mayor's office was connected to organized crime — reason enough to deny the late Mayor Donald Stephens and his village a chance at a long-sought casino license.
The younger Mr. Stephens acknowledges that the perception lingers. But it's like looking in a rearview mirror, he says: "Each year, that (perception) gets farther and farther away."
Mr. Stephens, 48, who became mayor in 2007, says he's not looking back but straight ahead to a 14-acre development along the TriState Tollway. Instead of a casino, the plot will contain a cluster of bars and restaurants and, in a second phase, a high-end outlet mall. The taverns include Hofbrauhaus, a German brewery that started in Munich. It will be only the fourth Hofbrauhaus in the U.S. and will be run by Josef Matuschka and Michael Matuschka, the father-and-son team behind Leader Bar, Max Bar and Nikki (formerly Crobar) in Chicago.
Other venues include Five Roses Pub, a nod to the five decades that Mr. Stephens' father was mayor; Adobe Gila's, known for a 64-ounce margarita; Toby Keith's bar and grill (the mayor is a country music fan); Park Tavern, a restaurant and bar being developed by restaurateur Roger Greenfield, who last year sold his Bar Louie restaurant chain, and Taverna Opa, which will feature Greek dancing (though no plate-breaking, Mr. Stephens assures). Also under construction are a Zanies nightclub, a Kings bowling alley and Muvico movie theaters. An ice-skating rink is already being used.
Part two of the project is the mall with stores such as Prada, Gucci, Armani and Max Mara.
The Park project will cost about $50 million, while the price tag of the shopping center could top $250 million. The village, which owns the property, has a $190- million annual budget; it anticipates pulling in $3 million-plus in rent and taxes a year from the development.
"It's not about the money," Mr. Stephens insists, noting that once the full complex is up and running, it will sustain more jobs than residents, which number about 4,200. "It's about bringing families here."
"Conventions aren't the cash cow they used to be," he adds, pointing out that the Internet has replaced the convention floor.
"The whole idea is to create life and activity so the business community and conventioneers and residents can have a good time and then go home," the mayor says. "We think it's a slam-dunk."