By LAUREN BARRY
Journal & Topics Reporter
Work has stalled on the $28 million “Orchards at O’Hare” hotel, restaurant, gas station development at Mannheim and Higgins roads, however, nearby street improvements at the site’s south access point, Orchard Place, are going ahead as planned.
According to City Manager Mike Bartholomew, “delays caused by obtaining necessary Illinois Dept. of Transportation (IDOT) and Metropolitan Water Reclamation Dist. (MWRD) approvals, acquiring excess property from the Tollway and Cook County, and the negotiation of a reciprocal easement agreement with the Rosemont Park District,” is the cause for a delay in construction at the Mannheim and Higgins property.
Work on the project was expected to begin Aug. 15.
Public Works and Engineering Director Tim Oakley told the Journal & Topics that the main delay for the project is an approval from IDOT for access to the site along Mannheim Road. He said city staff met with IDOT on Aug. 31.
“We’re looking to hear back from them next week,” said Oakley. “It’s really in limbo until we hear back from IDOT,” confirmed Bartholomew. He added that the developer will have to deal with winter conditions due to delays in construction, which could add to the project’s costs.
To offset these expenses, city staff recommended that the redevelopment agreement be amended at last night’s (Tuesday) city council meeting to reduce the purchase price of the Mannheim and Higgins property by $600,000. Doing so would enable the developer to use the funds as “up-front to cover the additional cost of construction,” said Bartholomew. After the project is finished, $600,000 would be subtracted from the $2 million reimbursement Des Plaines offered the developer.
Funds for the reimbursement come from the city’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district in that area. TIF districts capture property tax dollars and use them for redevelopment projects.
Des Plaines has been acquiring land at the site for years in hopes of redevelopment. Plans have been gaining steam this year and include a five-story, 128-room hotel, a 24-hour gas station with a convenience store and at least one fast food restaurant, and a 120-seat stand-alone restaurant, according to Community Development Coordinator Lauren Pruss.
“At every turn, we’ve had to deal with another government agency,” said Bartholomew of the project. “It can be frustrating.”
According to Bartholomew, the developer is allowed to begin some work, such as clearing of debris and soil remediation, while waiting for IDOT approval.
Aldermen were also expected to select a bid option for the Orchard Place improvement project Tuesday night. Staff has recommended hiring Lorig Construction Co. for $1,557,424.77, the lowest bid out of six received by the city.
If selected, Lorig is expected to reconstruct Orchard Place street from Higgins Road to Willow-Higgins Creek. This portion of the project includes replacing and widening both the street’s pavement and base, replacement of driveway aprons, sidewalk, curb and gutter, and re-grinding of parkways. Additionally, a new water main would be installed under Orchard Place with an extension east to the Canadian National Railroad and south to Higgins Road.
The Orchard Place bridge extending the street over Willow-Higgins Creek would also be replaced and widened. According to Oakley, the bridge could be purchased pre-cast, or constructed on site, which could affect how long the project takes to complete. He said that work is expected to begin one month after bid approval, and should be wrapped up by spring 2017.
Along with the bid from Lorig, aldermen are expected to approve a $145,968 contract with Christopher B. Burke Engineering of Rosemont to provide engineering services for the project. According to Public Works Director Jon Duddles, Burke provided engineering designs for the project and is “intimately familiar” with it. Costs for the Orchard Place work would be covered by the city’s capital improvements fund.
Orchard Place is located southeast of the Mannheim and Higgins intersection.