Christopher Placek | Daily Herald
Rosemont officials have started taking steps to acquire what is one of the last developable properties in town -- a 20-acre prime piece of real estate across from the Allstate Arena.
The land south of the Jane Addams Tollway and west of Mannheim Road has long stood vacant since the closure of a par-3 golf course and after the adjacent former Ramada hotel knocked down some of its lodging space. While the village has acted as a middleman between interested developers and Chicago-based Development Resources Inc., part of the ownership group of the property, village officials now want to be in the driver's seat.
On Monday, the village board approved an ordinance authorizing acquisition of the property that could include condemnation, though Mayor Brad Stephens said he's hopeful the parties can come to terms on a fair sale price to avoid court proceedings.
Officials from Development Resources did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
By acquiring the property, Stephens believes the village would be in a better position to handle access issues that would arise with any redevelopment of the land. That would include negotiating with the owner of office buildings on Higgins Road for permission to build a main driveway to get to and from the new development. Since the 20-acre property is bounded by Willow Creek on the south, developers would first have to build a bridge to reach Higgins Road and the existing streetlight at Patton Drive.
"The most recent success of the village is where we've owned the property and we've controlled the development," Stephens said. "We just think it's the right thing to do at this point."
What could be built there is still to be determined.
At one point, there was a proposal to attract office users and retailers who were being forced out of the Merchandise Mart, but that project fell through, Stephens said.
If the long-discussed expansion of the Fashion Outlets of Chicago ever comes to fruition -- and necessitate demolition of the Rosemont Theatre -- the land near the Allstate Arena could be suited for a new theater, Stephens suggested.
But he has essentially ruled out an all-industrial use for the site since it wouldn't generate enough tax revenue to pay for the necessary infrastructure upgrades, such as the bridge and stormwater detention. The village included the area in a tax increment financing district it set up in 2014, whereby property taxes collected above a certain level are diverted into a special fund to pay for public improvements.
It's also unlikely another hotel would go there, Stephens said. The nearby Ramada turned into a Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites and then the Edward Hotel. Even before it began a temporary closure in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hotel already had only a quarter of its rooms occupied, the mayor said.
Until something buildable comes forward, one idea is to maintain the area as athletic fields, he said.