Construction of a downtown Aurora building is underway. Invest Aurora, the city’s economic development arm, has found a developer for the property at 55 S. Lake St.
The Finance Committee of the Aurora City Council Tuesday recommended eight transactions involving downtown property that include private business, the city and its not-for-profit development arm, Invest Aurora.
Aurora has many bridges, and in recent years has had many bridge projects.
The soft-serve ice cream industry is apparently solid.
That’s how it is for at least one soft-serve distributor, Fox Valley Farms, 2619 Beverly Drive in Aurora.
The company is looking to about double the size of its about 25,000-square-foot facility in the Aurora Corporate Center on Beverly Drive, which is off Bilter Road just east of Farnsworth Avenue.
The center is on land created as part of a flood remediation program years ago that also created a protected wetlands right next door to the corporate center.
Dan Walker, co-owner of Fox Valley Farms, recently told aldermen on the Aurora City Council’s Planning and Development Committee that expansion is necessary because business is so good.
“We’re just out of room,” Walker said. “It’s time.”
He said expansion would be on an empty lot right to the north of the current building. In addition to the new facility, the company would add 28 parking spaces. Walker added that the company currently has 35 employees, and would reach 47 with the expansion.
“So you’re expanding because business is good — that’s good,” said Alderman Carl Franco, 5th Ward, a Planning and Development Committee member.
The committee voted 3-0 to recommend a revision to the final plan and send it along to the council’s Committee of the Whole, with a council vote on the issue scheduled for July 25.
Salvatore Arenella looked around the third floor of his downtown Aurora building at 30 N. Broadway and said he hopes to energy from the past will help inspire its future.
“This third floor was a dance floor once,” Arenella said Monday, smiling and taking a short dance step himself.
His buoyant spirit was due to the fact that he is now able to remodel the old, three-story building into two apartments and a first-floor store space. It’s thanks to a new revolving loan fund put together by a partnership of Invest Aurora, the city’s nonprofit redevelopment corporation; the Dunham Fund, a private foundation; and three local banks.
Officials held a press conference Monday to announce the fund’s formation and Arenella’s building as the first beneficiary.
The fund is designed to provide loan money to owners of older downtown buildings who have been unable to get traditional financing to do remodeling or renovation work.
In many cases, the owners cannot secure money because the cost of remodeling an old building is higher than its value. The revolving loan fund is designed to counter that financial quandary by offering loans at a low-interest rate, with no repayment required for nine months – allowing time for renovations to be done and the owners to find tenants.
In the case of Arenella, who bought 30 N. Broadway in 2012, he was unable to get traditional financing.
“And now it’s 2017, and the building is vacant,” he said.
According to David Hulseberg, Invest Aurora chief executive officer, the new fund will loan Arenella $235,000 for his renovations, which will be interest and payment free for nine months. At that point, a low interest rate will be added, and Arenella will begin paying the money back into the revolving fund, Hulseberg said.
“Basically, I don’t have to pay until the renovation is done, until I have a tenant,” Arenella said.
The Dunham Fund is endowing the revolving fund with $250,000 retroactive to last year, $500,000 this year, and $250,000 in 2018. Three local banks – First Midwest Bank, Old Second National Bank and Aurora Bank & Trust – will each add in $15,000. With the city of Aurora’s contribution, the total amount available will be $1.2 million.
“By providing access to economic opportunity, the (fund) allows building owners to create lease-ready spaces in the downtown that will increase business activity, bring additional jobs and revitalize our community,” said Stewart Beach, a Dunham Fund board member.
Hulseberg called the 30 N. Broadway building “a perfect example of a building with good bones” that will increase in value with the renovations. Arenella will have a two-bedroom apartment on the third floor, another apartment on the second floor – both bringing in revenue for him – and a 1,400-square-foot business space on the first floor that once housed Ziegler Music.
In addition to the money, the local banks, as well as the Waubonsee Community College small business development center and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Development Center will collaborate to provide business plan help for property owners, Hulseberg said.
Invest Aurora estimates that if vacancies are reduced by one-half during the next three years, it will result in 43 new commercial spaces and 130 new jobs, he said.
The fund is looking at deals on LaSalle Street, and the owner of a building on Lake Street is considering applying for a loan, Hulseberg said.
“It’s all business on Prairie Street in Aurora”
– Beacon News Article
In this day and age when smaller businesses come and go and seem to struggle mightily against much bigger competitors, there exists a different place along almost a mile stretch of Prairie Street on Aurora’s West Side.
There are no fewer than 12 small businesses, most on the south side of the street, in a predominantly residential neighborhood.
These ventures have existed in their current locations for an average of almost 40 years. That average business age bumps to 53 years when time spent at previous locations is factored into the equation.
And not surprisingly, many of the concerns are multi-generational family affairs.
Prisco’s Family Market leads the way in total years with 90, 24 at the Prairie address. Andy Guzauskas, the new owner, represents the fourth generation of family ownership. His great grandparents, Anthony and Mary Prisco, founded it in 1926.
The honor for longevity among “Prairie-only” businesses goes to Goding Marathon and owner Mike Goding. His father Bud opened the service station at Terry and Prairie in 1956.
“It was such a good street because they were things you needed daily,” said Goding. “The drug store (the now-closed Colonial, owned by two generations of the Stanciu family), the grocery store, and you could go to the dentist, get your hair cut or hair done. The drug store had a post office, and there was a bank ATM. It was just really convenient.”
Some businesses still operational today, including the year opened on Prairie Street (and for some, year opened at an earlier location as well) include:
- Young Dental Care — Dr. Kim Young and earlier Dr. Keith Young: 1962 on Prairie Street, 1957 at earlier location.
- Prairie Cleaners and Dena’s Sewing Room — Bill Stratikis and Dena Betoglou: 1980.
- Hipp Temporary — Tom and Brian Hipp and earlier Dave Hipp: 1985.
- Luigi’s Pizza and Fun Center — Bill Poss: 1999 on Prairie Street, 1981 at previous location.
- Petit Auto Care — Luke Petit and his son-in-law Paul Czinki: 1983 on Prairie, 1981 at original location.
- Griswold Feed and Seed — Steve and Tim Griswold and earlier Larry Griswold: 1968 on Prairie Street, 1945 at previous site.
- ReMax Town and Country — John McEnroe and earlier Dorothy McEnroe: 1978 on Prairie, 1956 at previous location.
- State Farm Insurance Agency — Robert Gonzalez and his son Bob: 2010 on Prairie, 1988 at previous location.
- Pilmer Real Estate — Linda Pilmer and earlier Marvin Pilmer, two locations on Prairie: 1973, 1971.
The honor for “new kid on the block” belongs to Leonardi Appliance Sales and Service, now owned by Dan Leonardi, at the busy intersection of South Lake Street and Prairie.
Although at its current location for only five years, Leonardi’s was founded by Dan’s grandfather, Lou, in downtown Aurora in 1947.
“My dad sold used appliances and did commercial refrigeration,” said Jim Leonardi, Lou’s son. “We moved to South River Street in about 1951, and started to handle new appliances and to phase out of the commercial side.”
In 1964, Leonardi’s built a warehouse on Rathbone Avenue and added onto it in 1974. Jim Leonardi recalled working at the business as a kid.
“I started helping in about 1958,” he said. “My brother (Lou Jr.) and I ran it when my dad stepped out in the early 1970s. Lou passed away in 1992, and I took it over in 1996.
“What I see all these small businesses having is something special that allows them to keep going. Our business is built on service. We have a service department and the box stores don’t,” he said. “I’ve been around for more than 50 years in this business, and I’ve seen companies come and go. What keeps the small guy going is what he does differently.”
Dan Leonardi, Jim’s son, also began working in the business as a kid.
“I cleaned appliances, and then started dabbling in fixing things,” he said. “When I graduated from college (Indiana University in 1989), I started repairing a lot of other things, and bought the service part of the business about 10 years ago.
“When Dad closed the River Street store, I meshed the retail part with the service business in this new building in 2012. Leonardi’s was my grandfather, followed by my dad, uncle, and aunt (Jan Van Fleet), and now myself.”
Dan Leonardi echoed his dad’s thoughts on the successful history of their multi-generational business.
“Our priority of customer service is what has kept us going,” he said. “You don’t get that in big box stores, and even many smaller stores sometimes.”
“Amazon to bring 1,000 jobs to Aurora” – Beacon News
Amazon will be opening two facilities which will bring more than 1,000 full-time jobs to Aurora.
Amazon will build two fulfillment centers in the Duke Realty Corporate Park along Ferry Road on the northeastern edge of Aurora.
Amazon, Intersect Illinois and the Illinois Department of Commerce this week announced the Amazon plan. The announcement said Amazon would provide more than 1,000 full-time jobs at the centers, which would be two buildings next to each other on Duke Parkway, near Route 59.
While the company that was coming was officially unknown until this week, the city of Aurora already has approved a $400,000 tax abatement toward the project, to help Amazon pay for building an intersection of Duke Parkway with Route 59. The intersection would help connect Duke Parkway to Route 59, which means the main road through the corporate park would run between the state highway and Ferry Road.
As the city was discussing the development, they were told the projects would bring in a total of 1.3 million square feet of building space, up to 1,400 jobs and about $40 million in payroll. Officials said the Aurora fulfillment centers would join ones Amazon already has operating in Edwardsville, Joliet and Romeoville. There is another under construction in Monee.
“In just over two years, Illinois has proven itself to be an ideal location from which Amazon can continue offering customers our vast selection and superfast shipping speeds,” said Akash Chauhan, Amazon’s vice president of North American operations. “We’re excited to be growing and creating even more full-time jobs that offer comprehensive benefits on day one as well as generous maternity and parental leave benefits.”
The Amazon development is being helped by state Economic Development for a Growing Economy, or EDGE, program awards, administered through the Department of Commerce. EDGE awards are a tax incentive for companies looking to expand or locate in Illinois, choosing Illinois over another state.
“Amazon’s investment in Aurora is a testament to our growing economy, streamlined business process and dedicated workforce,” said Aurora Mayor Robert O’Connor. “To bring 1,000 new jobs to Aurora at one company is unprecedented and to do so via Amazon, one of the most recognized brands in the world, is monumental.
“It’s just as exciting to know Amazon’s commitment and care for the communities where they have offices and the potential partnerships that will be developed throughout our city. We are absolutely thrilled with Amazon’s decision to choose Aurora for its newest venture.”
At the nearly 1-million-square-foot facility in Aurora employees will pick, pack and ship small items to customers such as books, electronics and consumer goods. The other facility, spanning 400,000 square feet, will specialize in handling larger items like big-screen televisions.
Illinois competed with several other states for this project, and the Department of Commerce worked to bring the jobs to Illinois. The EDGE program is the state’s primary mechanism to help encourage job creation and capital investment in Illinois.
By Steve Lord at Aurora Beacon-News
The developers of the proposed $35 million arts center in Aurora’s downtown said they believe the project is a natural fit for the city.
Will Woodley, director of development for the Chicago office of The Community Builders, Inc., told members of the City Council Finance and Planning and Development committees that “synergy” is an over-used word, but he used it anyway to describe how he thinks the arts center can fit into what is already downtown.
“There are a lot of partnership opportunities here,” he said. “We were impressed by Aurora, and we hope to be a really good partner. But we were also impressed by the communities around Aurora.”
The Finance Committee approved two developer agreements, one between Community Builders and the city, and another between Community Builders, the city and the Aurora Civic Center Authority.
The two agreements would encompass the entire project, which is to turn the former Waubonsee Community College building at Stolp Avenue and Galena Boulevard into an arts center. It also adds in renovations of an existing Joseph Corporation building at 32 S. Broadway.
The center would include a school for performing arts using the first floor and lower level, and 36 one-bedroom and two, two-bedroom apartments rented with a preference for practicing artists on the upper floor.
The school part of the center also would have new rehearsal space for the Paramount Theater and its locally produced Broadway series, and about a 5,000-square-foot space for a restaurant.
The artist apartments floor would include a sound-attenuated room for rehearsals, and other common space. The apartments themselves would be a variety of sizes with different amenities that cater to the arts – higher ceilings, utility sinks, reinforced walls to hold heavier art pieces and two bedrooms that can turn into a one-bedroom with a studio.
Woodley said the development would be similar to a development Community Buildings did in Washington Park in the Hyde Park area of Chicago. It, too, is an artist preference rental building.
The recent meeting on the project had an interesting twist, because it included three of the five Aurora mayoral candidates. Rick Guzman, assistant chief of staff at the city, is shepherding the development through the planning process.
Aldermen Michael Saville, 6th Ward, and Richard Irvin, at large, were in the meeting as members of the Planning and Development Committee. Saville chairs that committee.
Saville has indicated support for the project, but Irvin has indicated serious concerns about it. Both had plenty of questions of Woodley, particularly when it came to how the artist preference works.
Woodley said the rents for the one-bedrooms would be between $750 and $800 a month, and for the two-bedrooms likely $850 to $900 a month. The most money a year a person renting there could make is $32,000.
Woodley said once a person signs a lease, that person could make more money. But at the time of rental, the maximum is $32,000.
Irvin has been concerned more about what the lower limit would be. Woodley stressed that no matter who rents the apartments, they have to prove they can afford to pay the rent.
That would include providing tax returns, proof of employment and other proof of income, Woodley said.
He pointed out that the development is not subsidized. The subsidy developers get is in the tax credits, which are sold up front. But the rent is not subsidized, so they must stay firm on that.
“This is not the type where your rent is on a sliding scale,” he said.
He said the situation works more like rent control, which guarantees the rents would not go up as the value of the property goes up around it. Art concentrations typically improve neighborhoods, then price the artists out, Woodley said.
He also answered concerns from both Irvin and Saville about how they define artists. Woodley said that is defined in tax code through the Fair Housing Act, and can include artists in visual areas, theater, multi-media, dance, writing, music and crafting – a woodworker, for instance, could be considered.
“There is an application process,” Woodley said. “We do not require that your income come from your art.”