Things are much better in Elmhurst today than they were in 2009, Elmhurst Mayor Pete DiCianni told the crowd at his third State of Our City Address Tuesday at .
When he came into office three years ago, he said the city only had about one month of operating expenses in reserve, business vacancies were up, sales tax revenue was plummeting, roads were in bad shape and the housing market was at a standstill.
"When I think about what we walked into in 2009, in the middle of a recession with jobs going down, we are now a town that is actually producing jobs and developing new businesses," he said.
Economic indicators are pointing in the right direction now, he said.
"In 2011, there were 57 new homes built. That's a 20 percent increase," he said. Nearly 3,000 permits were issued last year for new construction, and home and business improvements, he added.
He referred to the new campus and its new medical office building as an "economic engine," providing jobs for some 3,600 people.
He also cited , a retirement community that invested $176 million in its new facility and will provide more than 200 new jobs; the new retail development at Route 83 and St. Charles Road that has provided 150 new jobs; the , which has invested $3 million into the old Saturn building on Grand Avenue and provided 100 permanent new jobs; Navistar's new 24,000-square-foot facility on County Line Road; major remodeling project in town; and a variety of new restaurants.
"We rolled out the red carpet for businesses and residents," he said.
Looking Ahead: A New Grocer in Town?
In 2012, the city can expect growth to continue, he said.
"We also are working on a very large grocer," he said. "In 2009, I talked about trying to get a Trader Joe's in town. This grocer—and I can't mention the name, but hopefully it will be happening in the near future—will be a combination of Trader Joe's, Costco, Caputo's. It will be something very unique that will only have about 20 (locations) in the Chicago area."
He said the grocer is slated for an area on the north end of town.
"We are working diligently to get destination retailers into this community," he said. "The bottom line is, they will add a lot of value to this community and bring in people from other communities. That is our goal."
Also in the works for 2012 is a new parking deck on Addison Street, a new cancer treatment center on Brush Hill, 26 new townhomes at The Atrium and new senior-care complex at the hospital's former campus on Berteau.
The Hahn Street development is still on the table, but "we're taking a little bit of time with it because we want to make sure it's right. We've got a lot of ideas that could work, but we need to flesh it out."
Three More TIFs
will bring developers to the "tired" areas in town, along York Road between North and Grand avenues, at York and Vallette and on Riverside Drive, he said.
"If you look at the areas that are very vibrant—downtown, St. Charles and Route 83—those areas were tired. Back in the 1970s and 80s, when I was a kid, the leaders of this town sought out financing districts for those areas. That is something we are in the process of doing (again)," he said. "We're looking at three that need a shot in the arm."
The property along Riverside Drive was not able to be developed previously because it has been in the flood plain, according to the 2006 FEMA flood map.
"Stormwater really controls economic development," he said. "If you're in a flood plain, you can't build."
But with the stormwater reservoir at the Elmhurst Stone Quarry, the area is no longer in danger of flooding due to rising water in Salt Creek, and the plan is to work with DuPage County to draw that area out of the flood plain.
"Wouldn't it be nice to have a big box store to compete with Walmart (across the street) right here in Elmhurst?" he said.
His Run for County Board
But it wasn't the creek that caused the flooding of hundreds of Elmhurst homes in 2010.
"That was because we had 7 inches of rain in a couple of hours," he said.
Solutions to that kind of flooding will cost between $25 million and $50 million. And that is the reason he is running for a seat on the DuPage County Board.
"This would put Elmhurst in a great position to bring home dollars for infrastructure and stormwater improvements," said DiCianni, who serves on the DuPage Stormwater Management Committee. "These are the concerns I have. When you walk through the streets and you see people with tears in their eyes taking their basements out onto the front lawn, you've got to do everything you can to help them."
A Slow Climb
Even with all the development in town, the city is not out of the woods yet, he said.
"It's a slow climb up, and the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to get brighter," he said.
He reminded the audience that the city is seeking this year.
"The City Council has said we are not going to increase our levy this year," he said. "With so much economic development going on and so much coming in, we think we can grow our way out of this. I'm all for that."