"It's going to be an exciting spring," Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens says while surveying the site of the village's new restaurant and entertainment district set to debut this spring.
The district -- under construction west of River Road between Bryn Mawr Avenue and the newly-opened Balmoral Avenue off-ramp from the northbound Tri-State Tollway -- includes 200,000 square feet of entertainment, dining and festival space.
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Anchored on north by the Muvico movie theater complex and on the south by a future outlet mall, The Park at Rosemont development features a recreational area for year-round events, including ice skating, farmers' markets, concerts, fairs, festivals and exhibition sporting events.
The development is clearly visible from the Tri-State Tollway, and the opening of the Balmoral exit will allow easy access to the district, as well as the future outdoor mall.
"The idea was we need to have people see from the highway the activity that's going on," Stephens said.
Construction of the exterior shells of nearly all the buildings in the entertainment district is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Interior build out should take another three months.
Rosemont's ice rink, which was in a temporary location last year, is the centerpiece of the development. It was reopened during construction and is open for extended holiday hours -- 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. -- starting Wednesday, Dec. 21.
The rink will be converted into a park in the summer with artificial turf.
Village officials have created a special liquor license that allows patrons to take beverages purchased at any of the restaurant venues outside for consumption in the park/ice rink area, Stephens said.
The Five Roses Pub -- named in honor of the late Mayor Donald E. Stephens' five decades of service to the village -- will be the first of eight venues to debut this spring. The Irish pub's opening could coincide with St. Patrick's Day on March 17. Officials are toying with the idea of dyeing the ice green for the occasion, Stephens said.
Other district tenants -- Toby Keith's "I Love This Bar & Grill," King's Bowling, Taverna Opa Greek restaurant, The Park Tavern, Adobe Gila's Mexican restaurant, Zanies Comedy Night Club, and Hofbrauhaus beer hall -- will be rolled out over the spring and summer.
"Everybody here is going to be a unique use," Stephens said.
After the Five Roses Pub, the 22-lane King's Bowling alley will open next, followed by Toby Keith's, Taverna Opa and Zanies.
"We're hoping that by April at least six of the venues out of the seven will be open, and the seventh one shortly thereafter," Stephens said.
Hofbrauhaus beer hall likely will be the last to open sometime in June. Site work has just begun for the proposed 20,000-square-foot beer hall -- modeled after the 400-year-old Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany. It will include a 5,000-square-foot outdoor beer garden.
Stephens said there could be a second phase of development down the road.
"We need to get these eight venues operating first and then we can look to see what we could do in the future," he added.
Stephens hopes to make a splash with the opening of the various venues, such as bringing in notable country music headliners for the opening of Toby Keith's "I Love This Bar & Grill." The 35,000-square-foot restaurant will feature an 80-foot bar shaped like a guitar, and a mosh pit on the ground level, sky boxes on the second floor and a rooftop patio.
"I want to have Toby," Stephens said, but added the country music star's presence comes at a hefty price.
Officials hope to bring in a portable stage with sound and lighting equipment to conduct outdoor concerts during the spring, summer and fall.
"The first six months that this is all open is going to be somewhat of a trial and error period," Stephens said.
Stephens said the village will put together a committee in cooperation with the business owners to organize ethnic-themed festivals and events year round.
Meanwhile, site preparation has begun on the 550,000-square-foot outlet mall just south of Balmoral Avenue, expected to house 120 mostly high-end retail stores. Construction is expected to begin in late January with completion in June 2013.
Officials estimate the combined $300 million entertainment district and outlet mall projects will generate nearly 4,000 jobs.
"It's something that doesn't exist anywhere else in the suburban marketplace," Stephens said. "After four years of throwing plans around back and forth, we've realized that we've got a pretty unique tenancy. The village does entertainment. We do it well. This is going to be a real exciting development."