CHAMPAIGN — Unlike the town of Normal, the city of Champaign will not give up public money to bring Portillo's to town — and theirs will open first.
Portillo's, which owns and operates Chicago-style hot dog eateries throughout the Chicago area, will open its first downstate restaurant in Champaign, the Oak Brook company announced Thursday.
The location will open in late April or early May, the (Champaign) News-Gazette reported.
“They did not request, nor did they receive, any public incentives to build in Champaign,” Jeff Hamilton, communications manager for the city, told The Pantagraph. That includes sales tax and tax increment financing.
Normal's Portillo's is expected to open next summer at 202 Landmark Drive, currently the site of a Motel 6. The town of Normal approved Monday a deal giving a developer $1.8 million in future sales tax from the restaurant — which possibly may reach $2.5 million with interest — to supplement rent from Portillo's.
“Without seeing their proposal, it’s literally impossible to say what’s different” in Champaign, said Dan Irvin, communications manager for the town of Normal.
Because the Normal deal is related to "the cost of the acquisition of the property" — Bloomington Landmark Development Inc. will pay $4.35 million to prepare the site, meaning its $204,000 in annual net proceeds from rent would be only a 4 percent return — "I would have to believe it relates to that,” Irvin said.
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The 2306 N. Prospect Ave. site in Champaign, a former HomeTown Buffet, was most recently assessed at $663,010, according to Champaign County records. The Motel 6 in Normal was assessed at $451,106.
“I can’t tell you why they didn’t ask here and they did there,” said Bruce Knight, planning and development director for the city of Champaign, of incentives for Portillo's. "Maybe they got a better price on (the land in Champaign) because it had been an empty restaurant for a while.”
Knight said city officials “have not generally offered incentives for development in that corridor because it’s a strong economic area." Normal officials said Monday that incentives are common for businesses along Veterans Parkway.
"There are no open sites, so (new business) generally requires redevelopment," Knight said of Prospect.
Portillo's officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.
When asked previously why it was necessary for a developer to build the Normal restaurant and get sales tax money, Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations Nick Scarpino declined comment.
Other communities have paid for Portillo's. Gurnee promised up to $1.425 million for a restaurant now at Gurnee Mills, the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reported, and the Patch online news service reported New Lenox gave up half the sales tax from a Portillo's now on Lincoln Highway for 7½ years.