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The Motel 6 at 202 Landmark Drive in Normal, accessible from Veterans Parkway, will be the site of a Portillo's restaurant, which is expected to open next year.

NORMAL — In addition to Chicago-style hot dogs, Portillo's expects to bring 150 jobs to the Twin Cities.

The Oak Brook-based restaurant chain plans to level off at that many employees after initially hiring 200 for its restaurant opening next summer at 202 Landmark Drive in Normal, said Nick Scarpino, vice president of marketing and public relations.

“There’ll be room for approximately 200 people to eat inside and about 50 people to eat in an outside patio area,” Scarpino told The Pantagraph on Friday. “We’re also looking to have a double drive-thru lane all around the building.”

The business also plans to apply for a liquor license and sell beer on tap.

“All Portillo’s have a theme. ... (Normal's) is a 1920s Chicago gangster theme, and what that means is we’ll suspend a 1930s car or truck from the ceiling,” Scarpino said of decor.

When asked why it was necessary for a developer to build the restaurant and get $1.8 million in future sales tax money, however, he declined comment.

“We’ve done both in our history. We’ve bought land and developed it ourselves, and we've worked with developers,” Scarpino said of how the chain approaches construction. “It depends on each situation.”

Developer Bloomington Landmark Development Inc., which includes Chicago developer and frequent Twin City investor Tartan Realty Group, will buy the site Portillo's wants, currently a Motel 6 on Veterans Parkway and knock down the motel. Portillo's will build the restaurant and lease the land.

The Normal City Council will consider an agreement Monday sending all local sales tax and food and beverage tax revenue produced by Portillo's to the developer temporarily.

That would stop when the developer receives $1,825,271 or "an 8 percent return on project expenses incurred by the developer," whichever is less, as well as "simple interest at the rate of 8 percent per year on any outstanding balance," according to the agreement.

That's necessary because the developer won't make enough from the site to achieve an acceptable rate of return, said City Manager Mark Peterson.

Scarpino estimated the restaurant will produce an average yearly sales volume between $7 million and $8 million. If revenue is $8 million, the town will start receiving sales tax just after the start of the restaurant's sixth year in business, according to town documents.

"I’m hopeful people understand as a business, we generate a lot of jobs and tax dollars for the community,” Scarpino said.

Peterson defended the deal, which he compared to one between the town and Swift Hospitality Group to turn the closed Holiday Inn off Interstate 55 on Main Street into a Radisson Hotel. That deal involved up to $4.85 million in future tax money, including in tax increment financing and hotel/motel tax money.

Building a Portillo's with public money also has precedent: Gurnee promised up to $1.425 million for a restaurant now operating at Gurnee Mills, according to the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald, 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.

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh


Normal and McLean County Reporter

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