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Article updated: 11/20/2012 12:28 AM

Wheeling gives developer one more chance

By Deborah Donovan

After a false scare featuring three words village officials do not want to hear -- general obligation bonds -- the Wheeling board agreed Monday to give the developer one more chance to get things together for the Wheeling Town Center.

After several extensions, Urban R2 Co. of Chicago now has until March 1 to bring the outline of a new agreement to the board. Partners in the project said Urban R2 could be ready to start construction next summer.

Gary, A. Rosenberg, the company's founder and president, extolled the virtues of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, whose first Illinois theater would anchor the center. In other markets the Texas-based company serves food and drinks in multi-screen theaters and is famous for requiring its patrons to follow movie etiquette, including forbidding talking or texting during shows, according to online reports.

Village President Judy Abruscato said after the meeting she was excited that the theater would give local community groups the chance to use its stages.

Rosenberg, faced with termination of the contract that gives the company exclusive rights to the 10-plus acre site that once held a Wickes store, revealed other potential tenants. These are Keefer's, a Chicago steak and seafood restaurant; Branch 27, described as a family-oriented value restaurant; and Bensidoun's French Market, which brings small vendors together.

Michael Laube, Wheeling's financial adviser, told the board the project would require $12 million upfront from the village and the dreaded general obligation bonds. That type of financing commits village taxpayers if the project fails, rather than just putting the property at risk. He said information has come in "piecemeal" from Urban R2.

Trustees who had minutes earlier praised the project quickly said they would not consider general obligation bonds.

Then just as quickly, a project partner rose to say general obligation bonds are no longer part of the picture. Nick Ryan is managing director of Marquette Companies, valued for its experience organizing financing.

Rosenberg said after the meeting that the village's financial involvement would be negotiated.

"It remains to be worked out exactly what we'll be doing, but I am certain we will be able to work with the village." he said.

Abruscato said Urban R2's exclusive agreement is frustrating because other developers are expressing interest in the site.

With proximity to Heritage Park and village hall, the center south of Dundee Road and east of Route 83 is envisioned as an entertainment center. Another advantage is 300 units of rental housing near the Metra train station. The village purchased the property in 2008 for $3.7 million.

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