Wheeling, Prospect Heights leaders highlight business developments
Wheeling Village President Dean Argiris delivered a personal and impassioned speech to a gathering of elected officials and business leaders Wednesday, a few hours after the Daily Herald published a story about his questionable village spending, bankruptcy and prostitution case from 1994.
Argiris concluded his "State of the City" address to the Wheeling/Prospect Heights Chamber of Commerce -- most of which included the traditional update of infrastructure and business accomplishments -- with a plea for unity and empathy.
"I ask each and every one of you," said Argiris, shortly after pausing to gain composure while talking about his family. "Take a breath, look at your neighbor, look at your friend and never lose sight that person maybe has problems -- that person needs help. That's a community."
Questions about Argiris' credit card spending, vehicle use and delinquent water bills have prompted the village to craft new policies aimed at improving transparency. Argiris has denied wrongdoing and voluntarily turned in the village credit card and decommissioned police SUV.
Argiris and Prospect Heights Mayor Nick Helmer highlighted accomplishments in their respective communities during separate speeches Wednesday morning at Chevy Chase Country Club in Wheeling.
Helmer said the city's $100 million infrastructure program is about 90 percent complete, and the project is expected to be finished this year.
"Our success with our economic development program took leaps that have never occurred before," Helmer said.
Helmer said the opening of a Thornton's Inc. gas station at the northwest corner of Rand Road and Thomas Street will be a keystone for economic growth. Plans for the gas station -- opposed by neighbors over concerns about traffic congestion -- are moving forward, and the city predicts an influx of sales tax revenue from the blighted corner.
He pointed to other business developments, including the reopening of Tony's Fine Foods; a Chase Bank moving from Mount Prospect; Ruffolo's Foods opening on the east side; and the Ramada Inn Plaza returning to full operation after remodeling 144 rooms.
Helmer also recognized a new 700-unit storage facility on Rand Road and Ambiance Furniture opening at Prospect Crossing Shopping Center.
Argiris said the village's investment in infrastructure improvements has helped spur business growth, and the work will continue with $45 million in additional improvements the next five years.
Meanwhile, the village's industrial vacancy rate is the lowest since the Great Recession, and the village approved tax incentives to fill 1 million square feet of space and create about 1,000 jobs last year, he said.
But the most visible development, Argiris said, will be progress on the Wheeling Town Center on Dundee Road. The $110 million transit-oriented mixed-use development near the village's Metra station will include a 300-unit luxury apartment building and 100,000 square feet of commercial space.
Argiris also noted ongoing efforts to remove homeowners and residents from flood-prone areas to reduce insurance costs.
"We've got so much to be proud of," Argiris said. "I'm happy to report 2017 finds us even stronger and more prosperous than ever."