2020 State of the Village Address
From the Desk of President Horcher - 2020 State of the Village Address
It’s my honor to provide an update on the state of the Village of Wheeling in its 125th year. I’ve enjoyed seeing and speaking with many of you over the past months, whether running errands around town, or at an event like the anniversary parade, the very special Rock ’n’ Run the Runway featuring the return of Haley Reinhart, or Lights Around Wheeling. Visiting with neighbors is a good reminder that our community spirit always shines, even as our town grows and changes.
Change remains most visible on Dundee Road near the Metra station, where the Uptown 500 mixed-use development has sprung up in what feels like record time. Just to the south, the Wheeling Town Center is nearly complete, with most apartments now occupied and commercial tenants increasingly open for business. Last month saw the much-anticipated grand opening of the CMX movie theater—which joins Starbucks, City Works Eatery & Pour House, Inland Bank, and the AT&T Store—and we expect others to start welcoming customers shortly. Among the amenities enjoyed by residents of these new transit-oriented developments is easy access to first-rate Wheeling Park District facilities, including the newly renovated Community Recreation Center, which begins hosting the Village’s grant-funded lunch program for seniors this month. All these major developments are in line with the Station Area Plan adopted by the Village in 2004; with many of those objectives now achieved, the Village Board adopted an updated plan last fall with input from the Plan Commission, staff, and community stakeholders, and that plan will now guide more growth west of the station. The Village will continue to assist development as appropriate through tax increment financing, infrastructure upgrades, and targeted site improvements like the demolition of the former Evanger’s pet food plant.
The station area isn’t the only part of town where development is occurring, or where the Village is playing an active part. Strong growth continues in Wheeling’s industrial sector, sometimes encouraged by Class 6b property tax incentives, which promote job creation while actually decreasing the tax burden on other Wheeling property owners by enabling the occupancy of vacant sites. Many of the most notable industrial projects of recent years received 6b assistance, including the opening of the thriving Richelieu Foods plant, the major expansion at Wieland Thermal Solutions, and the speculative construction of the Wheeling Distribution Center on Northgate Parkway and the Panattoni project on South Wolf Road near Chicago Executive Airport. The area around the airport continues to be an economic development priority for the Village, which recently signed an agreement with Hutton to assist with infrastructure costs at their planned gas station, convenience store, and restaurant at the Best Cars site on South Milwaukee Avenue.
Although retailers and restaurateurs continue to navigate the impacts of mobile e-commerce on their industries, Wheeling has seen healthy activity in these sectors, perhaps most notably from Spa Forest, a massive Korean day spa that plans to expand and occupy the former Solex College building at Dundee and Milwaukee. In order to improve our capacity to recruit new restaurants and retailers, the Village recently began participating in Cook County’s Class 7 property tax incentive program, which is similar to the 6b program but for commercial rather than industrial properties. The Plan Commission and Village Board have also responded to the state’s recent legalization of recreational cannabis by adopting zoning regulations that will help make sure these businesses are incorporated in to the Wheeling community in a way that’s safe and beneficial to our residents.
Throughout the year, each Village department has focused on its core functions, innovating whenever possible. The Police Department was recently reaccredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies for observing the highest standards in public safety; it’s the ninth such accreditation the Village has earned. The Communications Center, which provides police dispatch services for both Wheeling and Des Plaines, is conducting a Next Generation 9-1-1 upgrade that will expand its ability to receive requests for help. The Fire Department has led the way on implementation of Cook County’s revised Hazard Mitigation Plan, and has now turned its attention to the complete reconstruction of Station 23 on Wheeling Road. The Public Works and Community Development Departments keep residents safe year-round through regular maintenance and inspections, and also oversee major infrastructure improvements. Last year these included an innovative sewer project along Dundee Road—accomplished with minimal traffic disruption—that won an award from the American Public Works Association, as well as the long-awaited reconstruction of Industrial Lane near Chicago Executive Airport, and flood control projects in several areas.
Work continues behind the scenes on other major projects, some of which—such as a remapping of floodplain boundaries that could reduce insurance costs for many property owners—will be largely invisible to the public. Others—like the placement of new gateway signs at Wheeling’s main points of entry—will be impossible to miss.
In closing I’ll mention three other initiatives that, while not Village projects, will have a significant effect on our residents. The first two are road projects: the reconstruction of Lake Cook Road from Hastings Lane to Raupp Boulevard—which will also include portions of Weiland, McHenry, and Buffalo Grove Roads—and the reconstruction of Wolf Road from Milwaukee Avenue to Manchester Drive. Both will result in major improvements to these critical thoroughfares, but will make travel challenging while they’re underway; we’ll provide updates as appropriate. The third project is, of course, the 2020 Census: we strongly encourage all residents to step up and be counted. The results of the census will determine how Wheeling is represented in Springfield and Washington, and will help make sure that organizations and agencies that serve us receive their fair share of funding. In this and every other respect, the Village is grateful to our residents for participating in the community, and we look forward to serving you throughout 2020!