NORMAL — The town of Normal could give up $1.8 million in sales tax money to bring Portillo's to the Twin Cities.
Normal City Council will consider Monday a redevelopment agreement providing the Oak Brook-based Chicago-style hot dog chain a refund on future sales tax up to that amount.
In exchange, a Portillo's would open on Veterans Parkway in Normal, said Normal City Manager Mark Peterson.
"We’re saying, 'You create new sales tax, and we’ll share that with you up to a certain point,'" said Peterson of the agreement, to be published Friday. “It’s an investment in making the project viable and making sure it happens so we take advantage of the lifetime financial benefit.”
Portillo's confirmed Thursday it plans to build at 202 Landmark Drive, currently the site of a Motel 6.
Peterson said the motel is likely to close and be demolished this winter for Portillo's to meet its deadline of an August opening.
"We would knock down the motel and build a restaurant, drive-thru and parking on site," said Nick Scarpino, vice president of marketing and public relations for Portillo's. "We’d like to break ground early next year."
Peterson acknowledged some Normal residents may balk at offering incentives to a business as anticipated as Portillos, but “there’s no question (the development) wouldn’t have happened” otherwise.
"There’s all kinds of restaurants out there that have been very busy but gone out of business," he said. “You can have a business that’s very successful, but at the end of the day the numbers have to work.”
Peterson said the hurdle Portillo's faces is making sure the developer on the project, Bloomington Landmark Development Inc. — which, he said, involves Chicago developer Tartan Realty Group and its president, Doug Reichl — receives an adequate return on its upfront investment.
"They're looking at an $8 to $9 million investment, which is pretty hefty for a casual dining restaurant of this nature,” he said. “They have a gap of $1.8 million in revenue."
Peterson said a cheaper site wouldn't have satisfied Portillo's needs for a high-traffic location and a much larger footprint than most restaurants.
Scarpino said there are hundreds of factors assessed in choosing a Portillo's location, including traffic counts, site access, daytime and nighttime populations, proximity to homes and businesses and availability of real estate.
“We believe it’s a reasonable request, and the revenue from a Portillo’s, which is pretty extraordinary, will satisfy that rebate in a reasonable period of time,” Peterson said — no longer than six years, according to town estimates.
Peterson, Mayor Chris Koos and Charlie Moore, CEO of the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, said they're all excited to see the project proceed. Koos said traffic for the restaurant could spur more development nearby.
"Of all the community members that suggest to me we need a restaurant, Portillo’s is the most-requested brand in 28 years (with the town),” Peterson said. “It’ll be a regional attraction. ... It’s a great addition to the wonderful array of restaurants we have in the community."
Normal will be the chain's first downstate location. Portillo's is also considering opening restaurants in Champaign — possibly at a former HomeTown Buffet on North Prospect Avenue, the News-Gazette reported — Peoria and Springfield.