Thursday, February 22, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey. | Courtesy Bellwood Chamber of Commerce
During a Feb. 21 breakfast hosted by the Bellwood Chamber of Commerce and Development and billed as a “fireside chat on economic development,” Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey gave a bird’s eye view of the village’s economic development progress since his election last April.
When he campaigned, Harvey framed his candidacy as a continuation of the progress started by his mentor and predecessor, former 16-year Bellwood mayor Frank Pasquale, and many of the projects Harvey mentioned were started prior to his assuming office.
Harvey updated attendees on the status of the 12 new homes that Bellwood began building in 2012, because of a demand by residents for larger, brick homes.
“We just hired a project manager to build the homes,” Harvey said, adding that they’re located on a large lot on Eastern and Randolph.
“Those 12 homes started at about $250,000 and nine are under contract, with the highest hold selling at about $290,000 once people put in upgrades.”
Harvey said that the homes have attracted aspiring homeowners from Chicago. He said that he hopes the last nine homes will be sold by the spring.
Harvey said that the village is building two new, 1,800-square-foot homes on the 500 block of Englewood, right behind the Dunkin Donuts on Mannheim. He said the village also plans to build two more homes on 49th Street and St. Charles on property that the village has owned for almost three decades.
Harvey also lauded the Broadway Medical Center, the facility on Mannheim and Warren, which moved to Bellwood from Melrose Park a few years ago. The center specializes in children’s healthcare, but it also delivers general healthcare and has a pharmacy on-site.
The mayor praised two developments that opened this year under his watch — Club 717, an eatery and sports bar at 717 Bellwood Ave. and Thornton’s fueling station, located at 1125 S. 25th Ave.
Club 717 opened inside of what used to be Mr. Lee’s Pub. Harvey said the developer invested roughly $500,000 in purchasing and renovating the property.
Harvey was particularly buoyant while discussing the new Thornton’s, calling it a “huge, huge win” for the village.
“A mayor talked to me two or three times and said that fueling station was supposed to go in their community,” Harvey recalled. “It was a hard battle for us to get that done.”
Harvey lauded the fueling station, noting that it’s been a win-win for the village despite some residents’ initial trepidation about the development. Harvey estimated that the gas station would bring in about $500,000 in sales and property tax revenue for the village.
“It’s been a positive since it’s been there,” Harvey said, adding that the “gas is cheaper, which is a positive.”
The mayor did not mention a Feb. 6 carjacking at the new station, which officially opened last month. At the grand opening earlier this month, Harvey said that the station will have a heavy police presence and at the Feb. 21 breakfast, he assured residents and business owners that he is a regular at the gas station, which he said he often frequents to get his morning coffee.
Harvey outlined a series of development projects that are on the horizon, including the former VFW, on 200 S. 30th Ave.
“That closed, but there is a person who has bought the VFW and is talking about putting a restaurant and pub in there,” Harvey said, adding that the developer will allow VFW members to hold meetings and receive new members.
In addition, Harvey said, the property at 2501 Madison St., which was once the home of Art’s Ribs and the Tower Inn many years ago, is under contract by a developer from Chicago who “has vowed to bring a national chain into the area.”
Harvey said that his economic development team will prioritize national chains in their efforts to lure new businesses into the village, but he also mentioned some smaller, independent businesses in Bellwood that are looking to expand or open.
Attendees at the Feb. 21 Bellwood chamber breakfast, where Mayor Andre Harvey outlined the village’s economic progress. | Johnny Boston
Hair Depot, located on the 300 block of Mannheim, and Fort Deabron Enterprises, at 4115 St. Charles Rd., are both looking to expand their existing facilities. A Chinese restaurant that was once located on the 11000 block of Bellwood Ave. could reopen as a deli and a Chinese ice cream shop.
In other new development, Harvey said that Oak Street Health, the Chicago-based senior citizen healthcare organization, is looking to open an 11,000-square-foot facility in the village near the Senior Suites of Bellwood.
And U-Haul, which purchased a property at 950 25th Ave. last year for $3.8 million, is looking to pour $10 million into renovations that will turn the location into a storage and mechanical facility for the company’s fleet of moving vehicles.
Harvey said that the village is looking forward to the Cement Masons Local 502 and the Plasterers Local 5 opening up their new, 20,000-square-foot apprentice training facility at 25th Avenue and Madison Street.
The mayor said that the unions are willing to partner with school districts 88 and 209 on opportunities that may allow students to train in those trades at the new facility. Harvey said that he envisions the program as part of a larger effort that would allow local unions to “come together and create something our youth can get involved in.”
Harvey said that the site of a detention pond that will be located on 25th Ave. and Washington Blvd. should be totally cleaned up by the spring, with construction starting this summer.
“The project was $120 million, but now it’s $160 million because not only is the site on 25th and Washington, it’s all along Addison Creek,” Harvey said. “There will be improvements to help the water flow through the creek without interruption.”
Harvey said that the project will require the purchase of 20 to 30 homes near the creek, three of which are located in Bellwood, “along 31st and 32nd on Harrison Street.”
“There’s a lot of engineering going into this project,” Harvey said. “I should note that this is a detention pond, not a retention pond. Retention means there will be water in the pond most of the time, but a detention pond will not have water in it on a regular basis. It will have some green space.”
Addison Creek in Bellwood. | Village of Bellwood
Harvey said that a huge pump will be connected to the creek. When rain falls and flood waters go into the creek, the pumps will pump water out of the creek and into the detention pond, where the water will sit until it recedes.
The mayor said that the pond is scheduled to be completed by 2020 and is expected to remove 800 homes out of the flood plain (currently, there are 900 Bellwood homes in the flood plain, he said).
“We have 900 homes in that flood plain and people are paying anywhere from $2,500 to $6,000 a year on flood insurance. That’s a lot of money,” Harvey said.
“So, we’ll bring 800 homes out of the flood plain,” he added, “but the 100 homes left in the flood zone will also get relief, because hopefully those homes won’t flood as frequently.”
Harvey closed his address by mentioning the village’s budget. He said that this year marks the village’s seventh year of balancing its budget and not raising taxes.
“Our department heads have worked real hard at trying to curb spending,” he said. “I watch the budget real tight like it’s my checkbook.”
Although the majority of his address was economic in nature, Harvey lauded the political progress in Bellwood, noting that for the first time in a long time, the village, the school district and library board were on good standing. Representatives and heads of all three governing bodies were in attendance at the breakfast.
“We are a community working together,” Harvey said. “We are no longer three different entities.” VFP
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