The much-anticipated, village-subsidized renovation of Mundelein's Hawley Lake Plaza shopping center is virtually complete -- and merchant Hector Acosta is ecstatic.
"This is what we've been waiting for," said Acosta, who opened a Verizon Wireless shop in the plaza this year despite the construction ruckus.
Crews put new facades on the center's two buildings, which are on the northwest corner of Hawley and Lake streets.
Workers also repaved and re-striped the parking lot, which was cracked and crumbling and was riddled with potholes. They added trees and other greenery, too.
All that's missing are decorative parking-lot lights that are on back-order, officials said.
The work began last year and was a source of frustration for the tenants. For months, some stores were surrounded by metal fences to keep people out of the work areas.
But the fences also kept people away from the stores, Acosta said.
"It hurt financially," said Acosta, who opened his store in April. "It was bad."
Now that the work is done, customers are more plentiful at the Verizon store and at the other shops in the plaza.
"The last three weeks, every week has been a little better," said Tom Muraski, owner of the Family Fishery restaurant. "I'll tell you, we're grateful the shopping center is done."
Mundelein officials are happy, too.
"The renovations turned out even better than I originally thought," Mayor Steve Lentz said. "The center looks new."
Mundelein is covering up to half the project's estimated $1.5 million cost through a tax-sharing deal with the center's owner, TH Commercial Services of Chicago.
The company will receive 75 percent of the village's share of sales tax revenue generated by businesses in the plaza for five years. The company also will receive 75 percent of the village's share of property tax money generated by the center for five years. After that period, the company will receive 50 percent of the sales and property taxes generated by the site.
The payouts will not exceed $40,000 annually. The deal will last no more than 20 years.
If the businesses don't generate enough sales, the company won't get the full $750,000.
A TH Commercial Services representative couldn't be reached for comment.
Tax-sharing agreements are rare in Mundelein. Officials liked this one because it encourages the landlord to find tenants that will generate sales tax revenue, as opposed to a doctor's office or another type of business that doesn't sell a physical product.
As of this week, six storefronts in the center are occupied by operating businesses. They're a Subway sandwich shop, a currency exchange, Jim's Liquors, In and Out BBQ, the Family Fishery and the Verizon store.
A Korean restaurant called the Eating Hub and a GNC store are set to open in the plaza, village officials report.
"Once a few more spots are filled, it should become a real hub of commercial activity along Lake Street," Lentz said.