Officials offer overview of City’s recent growth, future potential
By Dee Longfellow
For The Elmhurst Independent
A group of about 50 people including commercial and residential realtors, architects, builders and developers were invited to Red Arrow Tap in downtown Elmhurst for a presentation by the Elmhurst Economic Development Commission.
“We have been visiting existing businesses and offering support,” Shanklin said in his welcome. “That’s what the City and the EEDC can do for business, provide support and let them know we are interested in their success, because it’s our success, too.”
Shanklin pointed out that the EEDC was encouraging local businesses to consider other resources available in the community, such as the Elmhurst Public Library and Elmhurst College, which not only has an excellent on-campus library but also offers marketing, logo design, planning and other services for businesses who wish to engage students in the classroom. There are also companies such as Victorious who can help with the online side of marketing a business. In today’s world where every other business is trying to take their business online, it could be imperative that local enterprises should reap the maximum benefit of it. In that regard, taking the help of SEO experts to optimize their business websites with regard to local placements could be a wise decision.
Mayor talks growth, new development, expanding tax base
Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley was then introduced by Shanklin.
“I had no idea how hard it was to foster development before I became mayor,” he said. “It’s development that keeps a town vibrant and you can see how vibrant Elmhurst is by the amount of development we currently have going on in this town.
“The more business we have, the more revenues we have, which makes our City run. It fosters a high quality of life.”
He noted that Elmhurst had 15,000 households and that it was in the top 10% of communities in the state with the most ongoing development. Housing developments are an important part of a community, building more homes for families to live in at an affordable price is essential, especially with the changes in costs constantly going up and down. These developments will be securely looked over with the right professionals, like a local electrician and plumber, who will be brought in to ensure safe and substantial work.
“We look to grow revenue at every turn,” Morley said. “It’s better to grow the tax base, rather than raising taxes. We are a very pro-growth community and we have a pro-growth City Council right now.
“It is best to foster a fertile business environment and then sit back and let it happen.”
Morley noted that occasionally, he hears complaints that there is too much of one kind of business or another in the City.
“I hear sometimes that there are too many bread shops, too many yogurt shops,” he said. “But we don’t turn them away. It’s really not the job of government to step in and get involved in that. We just want to create the environment and step aside.”
Morley introduced Willis Johnson, owner of York Theater, noting he had been there “through tough times and good times.”
“Willis Johnson brings hundreds of thousands of unique visits to our community who come to York Theater,” he said. “Those visitors don’t just see a movie and leave, they stay and take advantage of everything the City offers.”
He added that the retail market is changing due to the Internet, but that downtown Elmhurst remains especially vibrant and that is because of the theater. It had much to do with adding the 700-space parking deck on Addison Street. Morley also mentioned the Elmhurst 255 building, which is open and offers public parking, and the OPUS development that is expected to break ground soon.
When there’s an empty retail space, it can take six months to a year to build it out the way the occupants want it,” he said. “But typically, we have three or four people waiting in line to fill our vacant stores.”
The mayor said that in terms of development and growth, “we are #1 with a bullet.”
“Former Mayor Tom Marcucci said to me, ‘when it comes to development, you never take your foot off the gas,'” Morley said. “We have $300 million in development going on right now. We are doing more than any other community in DuPage County.
“As mayor, I often feel like I’m steering a luxury yacht. I didn’t build it, but I get to steer now and then.”
An overview of development in the community
The City’s Business Development Coordinator Erin Jason was introduced to provide updates on development going on at various parts of the City.
She first spoke about the business parks in town.
“We have consistently low vacancy in our business parks,” she said.
Jason mentioned several businesses which currently occupy the north business park by York and Industrial Drive. For instance Gerber Glass had decided to move its company headquarters to Elmhurst. Other companies were LAS Hardwoods, Long Supply, the Railway Supply Group and KB Kelly Barn.
“Our plan is to put $300,000 worth of sidewalks along Industrial Drive as a way to connect all the businesses there,” Jason said.
She talked more about the newer development on north York Road, which began with Mariano’s grocery store. Now the area houses Goldfish Swim, Brewpoint Coffee’s on-site roasting facility, GEM Car Wash and the new Thornton’s convenience station which stands in the spot formerly occupied by Stevens Steakhouse. She further mentioned Elmhurst Hospital’s new clinic on north York and that Wilkins Hyundai and Mazda had recently split in two dealerships.
Jason was happy to share that Spring Road was actually at full occupancy at the moment. She noted that Doc Ryan’s had just reopened following a compete renovation. Other newer businesses on Spring include VM Design, Top Driver, Doshi Orthodontics and that Betty’s, Thrive, and Spenga now occupied the area that was the former home to Tree Town Printing.
Like Morley, Jason talked more about businesses in downtown and how important density is to the downtown area, because it provides a daytime population that uses the restaurants and stores during the day, rather than only nights and weekends. She noted that Elmhurst was rapidly becoming a “wellness destination” – due to the number of fitness facilities, medical offices and yoga studios.
“We are blessed with a great location,” she said. “We have a pro-business City Council and a comprehensive downtown plan, which makes it easier for builders to bring projects to Elmhurst.”