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Monday, August 12, 2013

Rosemont Doubles Down on Aggressive Economic Development Strategy

On August 1, 2013, Fashion Outlets Chicago opened its doors for business in Rosemont. The new high-end shopping center – the first indoor mall to be built in Chicagoland in over 10 years – boasts over a half million square feet of retail and restaurant space, and cost $230 million to build. The developer, Florida-based AWE Talisman, successfully leased over 95% of the space before the mall opened, and estimates that the mall will generate nearly 2,000 jobs.
The mall’s opening all but guarantees an economic boon for the Village of Rosemont, who partnered closely with AWE Talisman to make the mall a reality. Rosemont provided the developer $50 million in grants and tax breaks to build the mall, which is located in a tax increment financing ("TIF") district. Rosemont also contributed roughly $15 million to construct the Balmoral Avenue tollway exit, which feeds directly into the mall.
Further proving that everything must go, the village picked up the tab for all drivers passing through the Balmoral Ave tollbooth between August 1 and August 4 between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. On a normal day, 6,000 cars use the Balmoral Ave exit, with each car paying between $0.80 and $1.60 in tolls. Although the exact number of vehicles exiting during the mall’s grand opening has yet to be determined, Illinois Tollway authorities estimate that Rosemont may have paid more than $50,000 in tolls over the weekend.
This isn’t Rosemont’s first foray into public-private partnerships, either. In 2012, the village helped finance MB Financial Park, a 120,000 square foot outdoor entertainment district located immediately north of the mall that features a movie theater, bowling alley, restaurants and bars. Between the mall and the financial park, Rosemont has taken a very active role in retooling its tax base.
So, what, you may ask, does Rosemont get for opening its checkbook to support these private enterprises? It is estimated that the village will receive $6 million annually in tax revenue from the mall. Stated differently, it will take the village just over three days to recoup the $50,000 in free tolls it provided during the mall’s opening weekend. In all likelihood, opening weekend paid for itself.
This adept economic development strategy has been used before. When the Aurora Premium Outlets opened in 2004, the developer – not the City of Aurora – paid for all tolls at the I-88 Farnsworth Avenue exit for two weekends. Rosemont certainly upped the ante by funding the tolls with taxpayer dollars, but this short term expense may very well generate significant long term revenue for the village’s general fund.
Post Authored by Greg Jones, Ancel Glink


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