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Tollefson Shares Plans for Revamping Downtown

Rick Tollefson, of Imperial Investments, wants to use Cobblestone Bakery & Bistro as a template for other downtown projects.

Developer Rick Tollefson and his crew spun about three dozen different concepts before settling on three for the west side of Route 47 in Yorkville's downtown.

"I hope what we build here is something people will be proud of," Tollefson said at a Tuesday morning meeting with local press.

Tollefson, who also is president of sportsware manufacturer , plans to expand to allow for more large-group seating and more bakery sales space. That would add 80 to 100 seats to the 40 interior seats and 20 exterior seats Cobblestone presently offers.

Tollefson also plans to revamp into a performance area managed by musician Jon Conover and add a BD's Mongolian Barbeque-style restaurant next door. The Follies Theatre will not continue leasing that space after the end of this month, although Tollefson said the group could occasionally perform there in the future.

, which Tollefson's company bought about six weeks ago, will become Kendall Grille. The back area of the pub building, which had housed bands and bags players, will have more seating and family-friendly entertainment, such as televisions, Tollefson said. The back area will open to an outdoor seating area near the city's pumphouse.

A Change in Style

Tollefson said he wants Kendall Grille to have an atmosphere welcoming for families, casual diners and teenagers who want a bite to eat after a basketball game or other school function.

"It's not a place to come and get drunk and party," Tollefson said.

The former and real estate office will become Mongolian 211. That kitchen will serve both Mongolian 211 and Kendall Grille, while the pub's kitchen will be removed, Tollefson said. Mongolian 211 will seat about 80, while the expanded Kendall Grille will seat about 150, Tollefson said.

A brick facade will run across the entire west side of the buildings, so patrons can enter from what is now the back side of the buildings as construction begins along Route 47. Tollefson hopes ComEd will move the utility wires there underground.

No Immediate Changes in Developer Incentives

Tollefson discussed the plans publicly just a few weeks after purchasing the last two lots he needed to own the entire block on the west side of Route 47 from Van Emmon Road to Hydraulic Avenue.

The city still owns the parking lot behind the buildings, and parking remains a concern for Tollefson. The gravel lot that Tollefson's company owns on the corner of Route 47 and Hydraulic Avenue has about 35 spaces, Tollefson said.

The properties are located within the city's downtown tax increment financing district.

Imperial Investments will receive a portion of the new property taxes created by three projects - Cobblestone Bakery & Bistro, The Follies Theatre building and apartments at 202 E. Van Emmon Road, 210 E. Van Emmon Road, 306 Heustis St. and 308 Heustis St. Under the agreement, approved in April, Imperial Investments will put $2 million into those projects, and receive up to a quarter of that back as property tax revenue associated with those projects trickles into the TIF fund.

Tollefson has abandoned a more recent proposal to provide Imperial Investments a development incentive by adding a 0.5 percent sales tax to purchases made in the company's downtown businesses.

The changes should create a handful of jobs, too. Carol Nachreiner recently was hired to handle the restaurants' business operations, while executive chef Rachel Conover will focus on menu selections and similar duties. Cobblestone Bakery & Bistro has about 15 employees, and Tollefson expects Mongolian 211 will have 10 to 15 employees.

The Bigger Picture

By the time he finishes those projects, Tollefson and his lenders will have poured $7 million to $8 million into Yorkville's downtown since purchasing the former Sugar Shack Bakery in June 2011, he said. He hopes to have them completed by the end of the year, if not sooner.

"I would love to say Thanksgiving for all of it," Tollefson said. "Certainly by the end of the year."

Tollefson expects Yorkville's downtown ultimately will have more retail space to complement the restaurants, the pedestrian bridge over the Fox River and the Marge Cline Whitewater Course.

"Obviously, this is just one part of a whole downtown plan I have in my mind," Tollefson said.

Tollefson, a Yorkville native, said he wants the city's downtown to be the envy of its neighbors.

"I'm thrilled to be here; that's the reality," he said. "I'm a Yorkville guy."

 

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Marooned July 18, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Leveraged capital--it's important to point out that there's a lot of borrowed money involved in this development. Developer corps can abandon or walk away legally at many points along the way, while city taxpayers are liable for the bond no matter what happens. The developers have negotiated a very generous 25% profit gurantee, the highest TIF margin I've ever heard of, plus whatever revenues and tax advantages from the properties themselves--none of which can ever be applied toward the city liability in case of developer default, or if revenues fail to accrue, as the property will not have a city lien as the deal is structured. Typically, TIF's have provided less than a 20% margin (most around 10%) for the developers. I find it curious that this group have moved faster and more successfully than other interested parties that seem to have been stalled and stymied, or have walked away for obscure reasons. No business model or financial outlook I have studied suggests that this plan is likely to produce enough tax revenue in the next 5 years over and above the (max possible) $500,000 to be returned to the developer. The developers will manage their side using tax and bookkeeping strategies involving assets, depreciation, expenses, capital losses, etc., to manage risk, while taxpayers will simply have to pray for property tax revenue. Was this a "blighted" area, or would the development not happen "but for" the TIF? I think not...another sweet deal? I think so...
Marooned July 18, 2012 at 09:19 PM
I should mention I do not have a problem with these developers, as they seem to be shrewd, smart, and successful business people. They saw an opportunity and acted. However, I don't favor TIF setups, or the way Yorkville seems to stumble from one poor choice to the next with nary a hitch in their gitalong.
sarah b.w.t. July 18, 2012 at 10:16 PM
It's an HGTV-style Community Crusader ala Hometown Renovation...not a bad thing. Change can be good. As a newer resident of Yorkville (since 2006) I think it would be great to make Yorkville "the envy of our neighbors". Bring it. I'll be here for a while since my 2 properties are upside down. :)
Fred July 19, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Anyone remember Mr. Tollefson and his sports memorabilia business in Oswego??? Hope history doesn't repeat itself.
justsoyouknow July 19, 2012 at 02:13 PM
ya... he owns Boombah and it's doing very well!!!
Katy K July 19, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Why more food places? You can only go to so many times.
Marooned July 20, 2012 at 02:10 AM
I agree change can be good, and it would be nice to be able to flaunt our fair city. However, I have to disagree with you on one of your points, Sarah. Characterizing this as a philanthropic, reality TV-type, charitable promotion is misleading and incompetent. The developers arranged a lucrative deal and used our tax money (in part) to make it so. We are giving to the developers, not the other way around. Furthermore, the financial risk Yorkville bears is increased as we have increased our cost to get even by agreeing to a max margin of half a million in tax revenue, while the developers enjoy protection as a corporation. It has never been shown we fit the basic theoretical criteria for TIF here; undesirable for developers because an area is a) blighted, or b) development would not happen "but for" the incentive of the TIF. Therefore, it is likely that this development may have happened without the sweet deal. Remember, recent economic problems have masked our true growth potential, and before this plan, or any plan will produce a turnaround, the economy must turnaround. In otherwords, we didn't have to do this, we have missed a chance to maximize our recovery when the economy turns, and the developers got what they wanted.
Kevin Wagner July 22, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Why not?
Jason Stauffenberg July 23, 2012 at 08:11 PM
I applaud him for coming home, and sharing his vision and plans to assist jumpstarting the downtown area! Pehaps, for the ones that aren't too sure of what things "COULD" be like....take a walk down there; currently it's pretty dismal. Hometown guy that has the capital to put something back into this town......Go for it!
Rick Winninger July 23, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Why don't we just support this man for having the courage to do what so many have talked about. Who cares if he gets TIFF help it was created for a reason. Quick looking for demons and show some support for his vision. Best of luck Rick.
Audity July 23, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Well, because, Rick, the very premise of it raises far more questions than it answers, which are far beyond the scope of this discussion board. I will, in fact, remain optimistic and look forward to seeing the finished product in action. However, given the nature of today's business environment, and specifically the restaurant industry, hope that it does not end up empty like most of the other strip malls already scattered around Yorkville.
Audity July 24, 2012 at 03:17 AM
And that, Mr. Tollefson, is as much an assumption as the very notions you are speaking against. How do you know any of us, myself included, have not owned a business? You don't. I hope, for all our sakes, that you do quite well, and because this venture includes the word "taxes" hope that it does not come back to haunt all of us.
Rick Winninger July 24, 2012 at 10:25 AM
How can we know you if you keep posting anonymously if you have an opinion stand behind it with your real name.
Audity July 24, 2012 at 11:16 AM
Because it's not about people, it's about ideas. Trying to trivialize it by making it personal is somewhat petty. So is a "call them out" mindset which resembles a degree of intimidation, or questioning someone's word choices as a means to divert attention away from the issues.
Fred Bridge July 24, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Rick, like you, I am a small business owner, albeit not as successful as you. Small businesses are the engine that keep America humming. They are creating the majority of the jobs - for that we thank you. We live in a community that has one of the highest homeowner tax rates in the nation. This is do to the fact that the homeowner is primarily responsible for our city and county tax base. I commend you for helping us change that and wish you much success in your endeavors. There is really only one word for those that write in to a forum and are afraid to put their name behind their comments, coward.
Rick Winninger July 24, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Well said Fred
Audity July 24, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Yes, well said Fred. You have exemplified and embodied the arrogance and ignorance that comes from lack of understanding. The fact that this thread has resorted to name-calling is disheartening, and I'm sure if you gave it a little thought you might be able to figure it out. No one should have to feel forced to defend themselves here, so is this indicative of the kind of response that can be expected if someone disagrees with Mr. Tollefson or the City or County in the future?
Jason Stauffenberg July 24, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Audity, did you give this same degree of Q&A to Cobblestone, or the ice cream shop, or the coffee shop down on the river? I guess I don't get what's the point you are trying to drive here? You can call yourself Audity, Batman or whatever...don't care. I just think, this whole forum would be a lot more productive if it had remained positive and try and promote growth downtown. Other than the Pub, I'm not seeing much foot traffic for residents or visitors to spend money...which of course is good for all of our taxes. What's you solution? I'm interested in what you have to offer in regards to promoting economic growth downtown?
Bob Saget July 24, 2012 at 04:09 PM
I'd like to have dinner with Mr. Tollefson at the Kendall Pub/Grille. My family has gone to the KP for years. Our kids were young (around age eight) to age 16. The KP has been a very enjoyable place. We sit up front by the windows in front, and when we are done eating, our kids go and play some Golden Tee or play bags. I'm sure we will miss that, but I guess that's whats going to happen.. OR, you could split the Follies Theater into two, one half for Cobblestone, and the other half for Kendall Grille. What I mean by this is that The KP will remain the KP, and the other half of Follies will be Kendall Grille. Just a suggestion...
Tim July 24, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Few places around like Kendall County have so many residents that think it is their business what everyone else is doing. Just because some say that they 'pay taxes' doesn't mean anyone cares about their opinion on business owners, nor should they for that matter. These same people who 'pay taxes' sure aren't rushing to make their own public tax information a topic of discussion by posting it online. They are seemingly unwilling to subject themselves to the same criticisms and judgements that they so freely levy upon others.
Audity July 24, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Thanks Jason, great point. I had, in several instances, congratulated Mr. Tollefson on his accomplishment and wished him luck. No where in any of these posts did I say that I was ever against any of this, in fact, I find Mr. Tollefson's work ethinc admirable, his accomplishments and degree of success inspiring and impressive, and I even look forward to seeing the finished result. I would venture to guess that most anyone with the resources and know-how Mr. Tollefson posses in conjunction with a genuine interest in contributing to a community they care deeply about would probably feel the same way and attempt the same venture. I know I would. For that, Mr. Tollefson has my utmost respect. My original question stemmed in conjunction with the post of another as to why the City was so willing to so quickly declare that area "blighted" or "undevelopable" and enact a TIF, and how it ended up in such a condition - what were the reasons that business has been driven from there initially that has created this situation; were taxes so high as to drive the business out initially? Was it overregulation? Were other individuals offered a TIF to reinvest in the area? Is anyone else receiving any kind of incentive to do so? My hope is that Mr. Tollefson's efforts are not merely a band-aid solution to a deeper issue, and I, as a like-minded citizen with a genuine concern for the well-being of our community, look forward to helping him make it happen.
Jillian Duchnowski July 24, 2012 at 08:48 PM
I have to admit, I'm having a little bit of trouble following this comment thread, so I am having some trouble determining if there are some misconceptions. But, in case this needed clarifying: Boombah is not located within a TIF district. Cobblestone and the other properties involved with the incentive package are in Yorkville downtown TIF district. The downtown TIF district is separate from the Countryside TIF district; the city has not sold bonds for any projects within the downtown TIF district.
Audity July 24, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Absolutely, Rick, and I am 100% on your side with that - do you not believe that your 40% contribution rate is slightly out of whack with reality? Is there something that the city needs to do to incentify business beyond tax breaks or TIFs? I think there's more opportunity for the growth of Yorkville beyond your applaudable efforts, and the city may hold the key. Do you see any potential opprtunity for those who may want to invest in the future of Yorkville that may lack the $2mm in investment captial? How can we work together to turn it around while encouraging brilliant decisions on the part of our city? There is some missing component to the half-empty strip malls scattered throughout the city that I just can't put my finger on - waiting to be turned into job-creating business opportunities that, for some reason, are not being pursued. Your wisdom and insight are appreciated.
Audity July 24, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Perfect, Jillian, and thanks for the clarification - particularly striking is the comparison of the Downtown TIF and the Countryside TIF. Opposite ends of the spectrum, and definitely thought-provoking.
Mark LaSanska July 31, 2012 at 03:28 AM
"It's not a place to get drunk and party". Is that why they were out of Corona Light on Saturday? Bring the bags back Boombah!
Glass is half full July 31, 2012 at 01:45 PM
We went there for dinner on Sunday night. We were the only people in the place. I wish them the best but think they should listen to the customers.
Terria August 17, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Not that it's really important, but it bothers me when there are misstatements. Tollefson is not a Yorkville native. His family is from Plattville, and he currently resides in unincorporated Newark.
Anonymous due to retaliation of boombah rick January 06, 2013 at 07:24 PM
I know this is a bit old now, but Mr Tollefson has actually been trying to run all other businesses out of town. He doesn't care about the town, or the lively hood of residents. He stated to the newspaper that his goal was to own all of downtown. As a small business owner, I've had first hand experience at him trying to sabotage my and other local businesses in order to try and make way for his kingdom. What happens when everything in Yorkville is under his control? he already has a big impact on the decisions of the board. Are people happy paying $7 for a slice of pie at his cobblestone location? Right now you can go down the street and get a better slice of pie for $2.50, but what happens when the whole town becomes monopolized ?
M.B. January 10, 2013 at 01:49 AM
Just try not to land on the big plastic green houses and red hotels...
DevinandAngela Nelson June 01, 2013 at 06:41 PM
I'm stoked that someone, anyone is willing to bet on Yorkville! This is a great community! It's time our downtown (fully) reflects it! I hope he makes a boatload and draws more people to our small businessess! Maybe it could help raise our realestate market in that area, these folks that have to deal with all the construction mess! (Not that it's a bad thing, just a mess) Best of luck!

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