Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik touched on expected summer traffic woes, an addition planned for a village tourist spot and other topics in her annual speech at a business luncheon Wednesday.
About 100 guests attended the gathering sponsored by the Gurnee Chamber of Commerce and held in a banquet room at KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort.
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With scores of summer tourists expected at Six Flags Great America, KeyLime Cove, Gurnee Mills and other attractions, Kovarik lamented the looming Grand Avenue construction projects. She addressed the construction after informing the crowd about positive business news in the village.
"And now I get to the unpleasant news," she said. "Actually, extremely painful news. We have a double whammy on road construction this summer and the timing is terrible, but obviously we can't turn down road work or you go to the bottom of a very, very long list."
Seven of eight Tri-State Tollway ramps at Grand Avenue will be rebuilt over the next two construction seasons, starting this summer. East of the tollway interchange, the Grand Avenue bridge over the Des Plaines River will be redone.
Kovarik said the Des Plaines River bridge will be reduced to one lane in each direction this year and in 2015, likely causing "serious gridlock" in the middle of Gurnee.
"Many of the surrounding roadways are going to have restricted access," she added.
On the business side, Kovarik was enthusiastic about what's happening in the village. For example, KeyLime Cove plans to build an outdoor banquet and event venue on its property, which she said is much needed in Gurnee.
Mariano's Fresh Market is expected to open soon in a former Dominick's Finer Foods off Hunt Club Road on the village's west side. Kovarik also praised Simon Group for what she said is an ongoing financial commitment to improving Gurnee Mills through its current food court renovation.
But Kovarik told the crowd village government must work even harder to attract and retain businesses for Gurnee. She said that's why the village plans to hire an economic development director by early fall.
She said the need for an economic development chief became apparent after last year's announced departure of Kenall Manufacturing, which has produced high-quality lighting products in Gurnee for 25 years.
Kenall will expand into a 354,000-square-foot facility to be built in Kenosha, allowing room for growth. The company received an unspecified incentive package from Wisconsin to move to Business Park of Kenosha just off I-94 at Highway 158.
Someone should be out being a dealmaker for Gurnee, Kovarik said.
"We are not on the offense," she said. "That's where I expect the new position to take us. Branding, messaging, promotion, tactics, incentives and knowledge. A walking database."