Throngs of shoppers are expected to line up early before the opening of Rosemont's upscale outlet mall Thursday.
Fashion Outlets of Chicago, a two-story, 530,000-square-foot mall located just south of the Balmoral Avenue off-ramp from the northbound Tri-State Tollway, will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, except Sundays when it closes at 7 p.m. It's the only outlet mall in the Northwest suburbs.
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It's the realization of a dream nearly 20 years in the making, Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens said.
"Many developers have dreamed of bringing retail to town for more than 20 years," Stephens said. "It's the only mall that will open in the United States from a ground-up construction in 2013."
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place near the first floor food court about 9:45 a.m.
The morning's festivities include performances by the Leyden High School Marching Band and Cirque Dreams theater company. Balloon artists and face painters will roam the mall entertaining children as adults browse the roughly 130 high-end retail outlets.
Officials warn of traffic snarls and are advising shoppers to use public transit. A Pace bus will shuttle shoppers from the Rosemont CTA Blue Line "L" stop.
The village partnered with Pace to develop the new Entertainment Circulator, Pace Route 811, which will be free to users. Starting Thursday, the bus will make stops at the Rosemont Blue Line station, MB Financial Park at Rosemont, the Fashion Outlets of Chicago and the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.
Buses will pick up passengers every 7 to 8 minutes. The service is available Mondays through Thursdays from 7:30 a.m. until 12 a.m.; Fridays and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3 a.m.; and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Metra riders also can access the mall on weekdays from the Rosemont Metra station on the North Central Service Line.
"We encourage drivers to take advantage of the Entertainment Circulator to reduce traffic congestion and avoid the expense of parking," Stephens said in a news release.
The village also will cover the cost of tolls at the Balmoral Avenue exit ramp off northbound Tri-State Tollway from 9 a.m. Thursday until 8 p.m. Sunday.
The Tollway Authority will count vehicles on the ramp during the four-day period and the village will reimburse the agency for the full cost of tolls. Toll charges will initially appear on I-PASS accounts, but customers will receive a credit for the toll amount a few weeks later, officials said in a news release.
The Tollway Authority also will suspend violations for any non-I-PASS users for unpaid tolls on the Balmoral ramp during this weekend.
Parking in the outlet mall's attached seven-story garage with 2,000 spaces will be free through opening weekend only. Parking fees go into effect Monday, Aug. 5. Rates are as follows: free the first 2 hours; $3 for 2-3 hours; $6 for 3-4 hours; $9 for 4-5 hours; $15 for 5-8 hours; $20 for 8 hours and above.