This rendering from Portillo's shows what the Chicago-style hot dog chain's Champaign location might look like. Unlike Normal, the city did not give up public money to bring the eatery to town.

CHAMPAIGN — It's no coincidence that Portillo's didn't ask for incentives to come to a much cheaper site in Champaign than its Normal location, Normal City Manager Mark Peterson said Monday.

"It was the site costs that drove the need for public assistance here in Normal," he said. "They wouldn't have qualified for an incentive here, either, with those kinds of numbers (seen in Champaign)."

In fact, the site of the Oak Brook-based Chicago-style hot dog eatery's restaurant in Champaign, at 2306 N. Prospect Ave., sold this month for $1.8 million less than its planned Normal location at 202 Landmark Drive — almost exactly the sales tax incentive that made the Normal expansion possible.

The Champaign parcel sold for almost $1.3 million, according to Champaign County records, versus a $3.1 million price tag in Normal. The Champaign site is a shuttered HomeTown Buffet; the Normal site is a Motel 6 that will require demolition and reconstruction.

"(It's) 9,300 square feet that I understand has been stripped, all the value taken out of it, on a site that's an acre-and-a-half," Peterson said of the Champaign site.

"In Normal, by contrast, they're purchasing a functioning hotel that was not for sale, three stories, 43,000 square feet, on a two-and-a-half-acre site, and the demolition costs will be substantially more expensive. ... They are two different projects."

Bloomington Landmark Development Inc. will receive sales tax money generated by Normal's Portillo's as it's earned by the restaurant, which is set to open next summer. With interest if paid over up to seven years, the total cost could hit $2.5 million.

Officials have no estimates of how much business the location, on Veterans Parkway, will attract that isn't taken from other local restaurants.

Bloomington Landmark Development Inc. requested incentives because it will not receive enough rent from Portillo's to make the project viable given $4.35 million in site purchase and development costs, town officials said.

Bloomington Landmark Development Inc. has not spoken publicly about the project. Doug Reichl, president of Chicago-based developer Tartan Realty Group, is part of the project, but he said, "Tartan is under a confidentiality agreement and not able to speak about the project."

Portillo's has not addressed whether the company is developing the Champaign site or using a developer.

"Portillo’s is not receiving a tax incentive in Normal or Champaign," said Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations Nick Scarpino when asked why incentives were necessary in one case but not the other. "That’s all we’d like to say now."

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.

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh


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