In 2013, some Arlington Heights issues will reach a conclusion while others will only begin to surface. The new year will bring in a new mayor, teen library space and youth job fair. Those are just a few of the topics local residents can expect. This is a look at those and other big issues to come in the next year.
Arlington Park continues push for slots
In August, Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed a proposal that, among other things, would have allowed up to 1,200 slots at Arlington Park, as well as a Chicago casino. The deal marked the closest the Arlington Heights icon has ever come to having slots. Quinn has said he's "optimistic" a new casino bill meeting his demands for ethical safeguards will be passed.
If slots are approved, it is unclear when they could be unveiled, but the track's general manager Tony Petrillo said this fall: "I wish we had a crystal ball to see exactly where we'd go (if it doesn't pass), but we don't. We'll have to sit up and evaluate how long we could survive."
Development incentives considered for Hickory/Kensington
A proposed tax increment financing district will be up for discussion now that the first details have been unveiled for the Hickory/Kensington area. The area is within walking distance to downtown and is bordered by Belmont Avenue, Miner Street, Dryden Avenue and Northwest Highway. The planning vision would develop the core area into a neighborhood with housing and some commercial spaces. The village had two downtown special taxing districts expire recently, including one for the southern end that matured in 2006 and another in northern downtown that closed out in 2009.
Youth job fair set for March
A Youth Job Fair is tentatively scheduled for March 9. The village's Youth Commission canceled a similar event in January 2012 because it couldn't attract businesses or exhibitors, officials said. Plans were recast in the fall as the commission pursued a partnership with the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. A career fair element, including interviews for volunteer internships, has also been discussed for what is being dreamed up as an annual event.
District 214 looks at tech-focused teaching
Township High School District 214 will host a national conference for educators in March, showcasing its technology-focused teaching. The National School Boards Association's Technology Leadership Network will get a look at how the district's six high schools use devices like iPads, Xooms and Kindles, and concepts like mobile computing and digital instruction.
Library plans new teen space
One of the last pieces of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library's $2.6 million renovation project will be a new space dedicated to teens, to be unveiled in the spring. It will be called "The Hub," and will be an expanded area for youngsters to study together, including space for group projects, computers and books. The new feature is expected to significantly increase the number of teen users, said Tom Spicer, the library's teen supervisor. Meeting rooms throughout the library will also increase to 14, up from the four current rooms that are typically filled to capacity at any given time in the library, officials said.
Voters will choose new mayor
This spring, the village of Arlington Heights will have a new mayor for the first time in more than two decades. Arlene Mulder announced last fall that she would not seek another term and three men have filed to run for the seat. Trustee Thomas Hayes, 56, is a lawyer. Ron Drake, 54, is a businessman and former Phoenix-area mayor. Mark Hellner, 61, is a lawyer who's running on a platform for change and "new blood" to the board. Voters will decide on a new leader in the April 9 election.
Development will replace hotel
Passersby can expect to see some major construction at the northeast corner of Euclid Avenue and Rohlwing Road. Converting the former Sheraton Hotel site into luxury apartments will mark the first building phase for one of the largest developments in the history of the village. Expected to take five years, the $250 million mixed-used redevelopment of the 25-acre site will also include two new hotels, five commercial and retail buildings and a water park.
Camelot Park improvements
The Arlington Heights Park District will have to face the results of the two failed tax increase requests last year, including what to do about the improvement plan for Camelot Park. The $5.83 million park renovation at 1005 E. Suffield Drive calls for a new full-size gym, indoor walking track, entry and lobby, as well as expanded parking and increased accessibility. The Park District won a $2.5 million matching grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in 2011, and then banked on paying its $3.33 million share with a tax increase. Voters refused to raise taxes in both the March and November elections last year. The Park District board has since postponed discussion, but leaders are expected to take on the issue soon. The grant requires the project to be built by June 30, 2014, which means construction must start by the middle of the year, Park District officials said. If the improvement plan is scrapped, Arlington Heights will be barred from receiving another award for two years.
Cinema, eatery will replace Arlington Theaters
A 10-year lease has been signed, and officials with Star Cinema Grill say the new movie theater with a restaurant should be open in spring. Retrofitting the former Arlington Theaters space in downtown is expected to take months, including a new digital projection system, kitchen, lobby-area bar, tables and seating.
In the next several weeks, the company will go before the village board for a special use permit and liquor license. Although Star Cinema Grill's other locations in Texas do not allow minors under 18 without adult supervision, the company's Vice President of Operations Gus Vazquez said age restrictions have not been determined for the Arlington Heights location.
Search for flood fix continues
The Arlington Heights Village Board is expected to commission a second study in February that will look at the pipes of two-thirds of the village, which is on a combined storm and sanitary water system. Results will come back by the end of the year from both that study and another study approved last year to look at the other one-third area with separated pipes for storm water and sanitary water. The in-depth look at the system will determine if the village needs to increase its capability to hold rain water. No solutions have been ruled out on how to address the flooding issue, which could include expanding the detention system. Although the scope of possible improvements is not yet known, it could cost millions and a funding source has not been identified, officials said. The village took on the issue after parts of the village were affected by a July 2011 storm.