Community officials from Rockford, Cherry Valley, Roscoe and Freeport were at a Chicago conference to rub elbows with various retailers.
A Rockford developer is laying the groundwork for a new open-air lifestyle center on Perryville Road.
White Castle representatives are making plans with a Rockford-area developer.
MC Sports and Kohl’s are looking at property in Freeport, and a national hotel chain is checking out Cherry Valley.
The various representatives were among more than 3,500 people at the downtown Hyatt Regency Hotel on Thursday and Friday for the Chicago Deal Making conference, sponsored by the International Council of Shopping Centers, where plenty of Illinois municipalities set up displays to promote their communities.
Developers from Boston to Phoenix chatted around tables in makeshift offices.
And community officials from Rockford, Cherry Valley, Roscoe and Freeport were there to rub elbows with them as well as Rockford-based development companies — like First Rockford Group, Rubloff Development Group Inc., Buckley Real Estate Brokerage LLC and Orput Companies Inc.
Rock River Valley known
Joe Sosnowski, Rockford alderman and vice president of commercial real estate for Buckley, was sure those promoting the Rock River Valley weren’t lost in the crowd.
“I didn’t run into anybody that didn’t know where we were at,” he said.
Name recognition is pleasantly startling for Melanie Benney, a Cherry Valley village employee who helped village administrator David Nord at the booth. The village’s booth, marked with their village trademark — an American-flag-stamped cherry — saw an uptick in business over last year, Benney said.
“Someone came by said, ‘Oh, I’m already up on you guys,’ ” Benney said.
Before noon Thursday, Nord had already caught up with several retailers and a national hotel chain.
“This was the same guy I talked to last year,” Nord said of the hotel representative.
Two booths over was Freeport. Six-foot banners shouting “Location! Location! Location!” and others promoting Freeport’s demographics were the backdrop as Mayor George Gaulrapp chatted with developers.
There were firm handshakes over the bowl of promotional pretzels, a nod to the snack made in town. Gaulrapp had the ears of brokers with MC Sports and Kohl’s. He talked to retailers about locating within one of the town’s two tax increment financing districts and offered a site in a proposed third TIF.
Roscoe officials, who are relative newcomers to the business of selling the village to retailers, learned to start at the beginning.
‘An identity problem’
One of the first orders of business, they’ve decided, is to hire a marketing firm because all the other municipalities in attendance had slick displays and pamphlets. Roscoe doesn’t.
“They’ve already identified some places like Machesney Park and South Beloit,” Roscoe village President Dave Krienke said. “We basically have an identity problem. We need to build one.”
Rockford didn’t bother with a booth. Richard May, commercial development coordinator for the city, said he and the community development director are “more comfortable being mobile.”
May met several developers from Chicago and one from Cleveland. Though there weren’t any solid bites on downtown redevelopment projects, May said he’ll follow up additional leads.
“I’ll give them enough that their appetite for Rockford is whet enough that they’ll set up a tour,” he said.
First Rockford Group kept busy with the traffic of steady appointments.
One of those was with the national burger chain, White Castle. First Rockford recently brokered the deal to bring White Castle to Sycamore Road in DeKalb, a site they are leasing through First Rockford.
“Rockford is on the radar,” said Brian Walkerly, a senior real estate manager with White Castle.
Sounds promising, but First Rockford’s Bharat Puri isn’t calling it a done deal.
“There is major interest. We have a long relationship with those guys,” Puri said, adding that an official announcement is “a little premature.”
The priority this week was to promote a site on Perryville Road at Rote Road: an open-air lifestyles center with space for 12 big-box stores.
Some mum on progress
Other developers are more tight-lipped.
Steve St. Peter of Rubloff, which owns the ailing Machesney Park Mall, said his firm made some progress on a 900-acre project in Dallas, but wouldn’t share details on sites closer to home.
Buckley’s Sosnowski said he spoke with “a couple new retailers.”
He wouldn’t name names, but he said there was some serious interest in Buckley sites on West Riverside Boulevard and the Starbucks-anchored strip being built at Bell School Road and East State Street.
It may be too soon to know whether any of the handshakes will lead to new development in the Rock River Valley. But those Rockford-area developers and municipal leaders in attendance seem confident the trip to the Windy City was worthwhile.
“Today has been very busy,” Cherry Valley’s Nord said Thursday. “We’re very hopeful we’ll get something out of the mix.”
Staff writer Bridget Tharp may be reached at 815-987-1354 or email@example.com.