Tag: Christopher Ilekis

Maywood Checkers Shuttered | Maywood Church, Seeking to Expand, Confronts Officials Worried About Losing Taxes

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IMG_5552Saturday, April 29, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 3:55 p.m.

Less than three years after it first opened in September 2014, the Checkers at 1718 S. First Ave. in Maywood is closed.

The closure seems rather abrupt, considering the store location still has a Facebook page that was active up until March 28 and the location is still listed on the company’s online database of locations.

In a phone interview on Saturday, Trustee Isiah Brandon said that Checkers officials contacted village officials Monday with the news that the store was closing. They also sent an email, he said. Company officials cited low sales as a contributing factor, Brandon added.

In a 2014 interview, Christopher Ilekis, a principal at Vequity, the real estate investment and development company that bought the property before leasing it to Checkers, said that the property, which had formerly been a KFC restaurant, had been in bankruptcy before his company acquired it in a portfolio sale.

The Maywood store opened on the same day as the Broadview checkers, located at 1617 W. Roosevelt Rd. The latter location is still open. The Maywood store, along with the Broadview store, was corporately owned and operated.

No one from Checkers or Vequity could be contacted for comment over the weekend. More as this story develops.

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Maywood church, seeking expansion, runs into village concerns over taxes 

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Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 2.04.28 PMA Maywood church seeking to expand its operations into an area that’s zoned commercial while maintaining property tax exemption encountered some wariness among some village officials at an April 26 Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting.

The New Hope Christian Center Church, 14 S. 19th Ave., wants to buildout and modify existing unoccupied commercial space at 2 South 19th Ave., which is separated from the church facility by a vacant, fenced-in lot. The church owns both properties.

New Hope plans to turn the commercial space into theNew Hope Empowerment Center, an “educational agency” that would “focus on teaching Christian principles, as well as academics and technology values to individuals of all ages,” according to project summary released by the church’s pastor, Bishop Anthony G. Wellington.

According to a business plan that Wellington submitted on behalf of his church, the new facility would host weekly job training sessions, prayer meetings, “biblical guidance sessions” and “biblical enhancement sessions.”

But village staff members and some board members stated that they’re worried that “this project may be an expansion of the [tax-exempt] church into the C2 Pedestrian Oriented Commercial District,” according to an April 26 village memo written by Josh Koonce, the village’s planning and zoning officer.

“In fact,” Koonce states, “Mr. Wellington has indicated that the purpose of the new development is to expand the capacity and footprint of the church.”

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At Wednesday’s LLOC meeting, Trustee Michael Rogers expressed some reservations over the village allowing the church to turn the commercial property, which currently generates commercial property taxes, into tax-exempt property.

“The whole concept of our [taking the] limited commercial property that we have off the tax rolls is problematic,” Rogers said.

“That zone, when you cross the tracks, is called Broadway. That’s a heavy commercial usage. The non-conforming uses already there are grandfathered in, but it’s important not to lose any more commercial property with the straits that the village is in.”

Rogers said that, despite his reservations, the church’s proposal should be vetted by the village’s Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeal. Trustee Henderson Yarbrough echoed Rogers’s sentiments.

“I have the same concerns that Trustee Rogers just mentioned,” he said. “With this going to the planning and zoning board, hopefully these questions will be answered during that period of time. We look forward to their recommendations.”

Wellington’s attorney, however, said that the church’s proposal represents the “highest and best” use of the abandoned commercial space, which used to be a paint store.

“Any other commercial use would be an island on that corner,” he said.

The board voted unanimously on village staff’s recommendation to move the proposal to the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeal.

According to the village memo, that board will be responsible for determining “whether the proposal fits within the definition of Educational Facility, Vocational School or Training Academy (a special use in the C-2 district – Section 17.4 and Table 8-1 of the Village of Maywood Zoning Ordinance), or if this proposal constitutes an expansion of a church into a commercial district (not permitted).” VFP

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Maywood, Broadview Checkers Restaurants Officially Opened Today, Heralding Chicagoland Expansion Efforts

Cook County Recorder of DeedsScreenshot 2014-09-30 at 5.30.36 PMEmployees at the new Checkers in Maywood prepare for the first official day open. Below, left, Raziya Lee Perry waits as her father, Ramon Lee, orders their food. Photos by Michael Romain for the Village Free Press.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014 || By Michael Romain 

We took a very wild, wild guess at the new location’s fiscal impact

Screenshot 2014-09-30 at 5.29.50 PMMAYWOOD — Ramon Lee had ventured into the Checkers restaurant at 1718 S. First Avenue at around 9:00 this morning on his way from work. His daughter, Raziya Lee Perry, was in his arms as he placed an order. Although there were purchases made by various Village officials — such as Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins, Police Chief Valdimir Talley and various trustees — who had arrived earlier for the restaurant’s official ribbon-cutting ceremony, Lee may have been the location’s first casual customer.

“I just so happened to be driving by,” said Lee, who lives on the West Side of Chicago. “I like Checkers, but I didn’t know there was one here.”

Lee may be just the patron the fast-food chain’s corporate planners and the property’s developers had in mind when they thought of this location, a former KFC restaurant that is right by the Eisenhower’s entrance and exit ramps.

Christopher Ilekis, a principal at Vequity, the real estate investment and development company that bought the property before leasing it to Checkers, said that his company had been eyeing the site for a while.

“It was in bankruptcy, so there were a lot of challenges [to acquiring it],” he said. “But over time, we ended up buying multiple KFC locations out of a portfolio sale.”

Maywood’s Acting Village Manager, David Myer, expressed satisfaction with the acquisition, the result of many months of zoning deliberations and meetings, but hopes that this is only the beginning of more development for the Village.

“This property had been vacant for many years,” he said. “This will draw a lot of patrons to this place. The existing building was in disrepair, with weeds around it. It wasn’t good to look at, but now look what we have. It’s a good kickoff to more economic development. We’ll keep working with people to get things done.”

As Mayor Perkins, State Rep. Chris Welch and other Village officials were cutting the ribbon on the Maywood Checkers, workers at the chain’s Broadview location, at the corner of 17th Avenue and Roosevelt Road, were preparing for their own ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The two locations are both opening during what may be considered the popular fast-food chain’s second act in the midwest, which comes several years after the company closed seemingly just as many stores as it’s now opening.

Scott New, Checkers’s brand growth manager, said that the chain’s reemergence in the area represents a shift in corporate strategy, with most of the new stores in the western suburbs being corporately-owned and operated, instead of franchised.

According to National Restaurant News (NRN), Checkers Drive-In Restaurant, also called Rally’s depending on the region, was founded in 1986 and became known for its signature double drive-thru design. However, that design has since been heavily imitated by competitors, which, in addition to the costs of construction, may have led to lower profit margins.

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A June 2013 report by the Chicago Sun-Times noted that the restaurant chain had been “limited in its expansion efforts because of the double drive-thru design.”

Jennifer Durham, the company’s vice president of franchise development, told the Sun-Times last year that Checkers loosened its design standards for franchisees.

“We’ve really evolved the restaurant formats and the design to incorporate whatever it is that’s needed in that particular trade area,” she told the Sun-Times, which reported that that may mean “allowing single-lane drive thrus, strip mall end caps and building conversions to better accommodate pedestrian and mass transit traffic.”

New said that within the next 2-3 weeks, Checkers will open two more stores in the Chicago area, with another 3-5 stores in development for 2015. And the building isn’t the only difference between these stores and the older versions. The menu also changed — slightly.

“As all companies change, we understand that we need to stay alive and vibrant and really push forward our new look and menu,” New said. “Now, compared to maybe 6 or 7 years ago, we still have our staples like our Champ sandwich, our shakes and our famous seasoned fries, but also added things like chicken wings and mozarella sticks and shrimp.”

New said he wasn’t sure how many Maywood residents the First Avenue location employed, but said that total employment at the location would range from 60 to 80 workers.

“We would like our employees to be local,” he said. “Not only does that give them the opportunity to be here and work, but it gives them a sense of pride in their community.”

As for the store’s fiscal impact, New said he couldn’t predict sales volume or the amount of property tax revenue the store would generate. However, according to financial data published by the National Restaurant News, the Tampa, Florida-based fast food chain had system-wide sales of $469.7 million at 498 stores (or units) across the country in fiscal year 2013. The estimated volume of sales per store that year was $952,000.

According to tax-rates.org, Maywood’s “sales tax is 9.00%, consisting of 6.25% Illinois state sales tax and 2.75% Maywood local sales taxes. The local sales tax consists of a 0.75% county sales tax, a 1.00% city sales tax and a 1.00% special district sales tax (used to fund transportation districts, local attractions, etc.).”

According to Cook County’s Property Tax Portal, the property tax bill amounts for 1718 S. 1st Avenue ranged from about $23,000 in 2009 to about $28,000 in 2012. In 2013, the tax bill was $24,488.98.

Taking 2.75 percent of the estimated sales volume per store for 2013 ($952,000) — which would yield about $26,000 in local sales tax revenue — and adding that to $25,000 (last year’s property tax bill rounded up), would render an extremely rough guestimate of the new fast food restaurant’s fiscal impact on the Village. The total amounts to about $51,000. A very rough (and imprecise) sketch, indeed, but some kind of indication nonetheless, of the new development’s potential economic footprint. VFP

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