Mundelein's Hawley Lake Plaza could be headed for redevelopment

Mundelein officials have struck a tax-sharing deal that could lead to the redevelopment of one of the town's biggest commercial eyesores.

The agreement paves the way for improvements at the Hawley Lake Plaza, an L-shaped center at Route 45 and Hawley Street that once was anchored by a Walgreens drugstore.

Walgreens pulled out in 2000, however, and many of the other storefronts are vacant, too. A Subway sandwich shop and a seafood restaurant called the Family Fishery are among the few remaining businesses.

The deal will reimburse the owner of the site, TH Commercial Services, a portion of the money it spends to improve the center's appearance.

The company has proposed a new facade and roof, as well as fresh landscaping and lights, said Victor Barrera, Mundelein's community development director. The crumbling parking lot could be replaced, too.

In exchange, the village will cover 50 percent of the costs of any improvements, up to $750,000, officials said. The village's payments will be made after the work is done, not in advance. The cash will come from real estate and sales-tax revenue.

Barrera said the deal could have a "major impact" on the village, especially the downtown area - the bulk of which is just east of the shopping center.

"This is a plaza the community has long desired to be redeveloped or improved upon," Barrera said Wednesday. "The proposed improvements change the landscape of that intersection and hopefully become a draw for new tenants."

According to the agreement, once a construction permit is issued, any improvements must be "substantially completed" within six months for the company to see a dime in tax revenue.

If the work is finished by Dec. 31, the company will receive 75 percent of the village's share of sales tax revenue generated by businesses in the plaza, and 75 percent of the village's share of property taxes for five years.

Afterward, the developer will receive 50 percent of the sales tax and property tax generated by the site.

The payouts will not exceed $40,000 annually, Barrera said. The deal will last 20 years.

If the businesses in the center don't meet tax-revenue projections, the company may not receive the full $750,000, he added.

The village board approved the deal Monday with a 5-1 vote. Trustee Holly Kim was the lone dissenter.

Kim said she favors giving the company a financial incentive to redevelop the plaza, but thought the amount offered was too generous. She believes a negotiating team should have worked on the deal to make it more favorable to the village.

"I just felt it could have been negotiated better," Kim said.

Trustee Ray Semple defended his vote in favor of the deal, saying it encourages the company to fill the storefronts with businesses that will generate the tax revenue at the heart of the bargain.

"The shopping center owner really needs to bring in a lot of sales-tax revenue to (reach) the $750,000," Semple said.

Filling vacant storefronts also helps the community, he said.

"This has been an eyesore in downtown Mundelein for quite a while," Semple said. "This is definitely something to help make the shopping center better looking and more viable."

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