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Proposed redevelopment agreement with Elmhurst Auto Group advances

Alderman Michael Honquest comments on the proposed redevelopment agreement with Elmhurst Auto Group at the Nov. 6 Elmhurst City Council meeting.
Alderman Michael Honquest comments on the proposed redevelopment agreement with Elmhurst Auto Group at the Nov. 6 Elmhurst City Council meeting.

ELMHURST – The city of Elmhurst may soon have a $6 million redevelopment agreement in place with Elmhurst Auto Group following the Elmhurst City Council's 12-1 passage of a committee report presented by alderman Michael Honquest at its Nov. 6 meeting.

Honquest said BMW of North Americahad recommended Elmhurst Auto Group, which sells BMW vehicles at its dealership at 466 W. Lake St., move out of Elmhurst to a larger site. Elmhurst Auto Group wanted to stay here so it approached the city for redevelopment assistance for expansion, he said.

Honquest said auto dealerships are important to Elmhurst because they bring in sales tax revenue and help keep taxes down.

"Business in Elmhurst is important to the quality of life we have in Elmhurst, and it goes to kind of the fundamental of how we run the city," he said.

According to the commitee report, Elmhurst Auto Group is one of Elmhurst's largest sales tax-producing businesses with more than $1 million in sales tax each year.

Alderman Bob Dunn said although he had some initial concerns, he was in support of the redevelopment agreement.

"Normally our incentives are pay as you go, and normally there's a split. This is not," Dunn said. "So there was some initial concerns on my part there, but with this being a competitive situation, this enterprise – these three dealerships – we get over a million dollars a year in sales tax from them, and that's at risk."

Elmhurst Auto Group operates three dealerships next to each other on Lake Street: BMW, Toyota and Jaguar. The improvements and expansion of the BMW dealership will double the allotment of BMW vehicles at the Elmhurst dealership and allow for the expansion of Toyota and Jaguar new and used car sales, as well as parts and service, according to the committee report.

Alderman Michael Bram said he would like more evidence on the competitive nature of the situation.

"Without any evidence, I think that this dollar amount is still just too rich for my blood," said Bram, who was the sole "no" vote. "I think $6 million is a hard pill to swallow."

Alderman Mark Mulliner said he had not signed the commitee report because he was absent at the committee meeting Oct. 23, but he is "wholeheartedly" in support of the agreement, adding Elmhurst Auto Group is "committed" to staying in Elmhurst, despite BMW's recommendation.

"We're committed to having them here in this town because they've been a tremendous asset – not just in car sales but in getting new bodies into the city of Elmhurst," Mulliner said.

The $6 million includes TIF-eligible project costs related to land acquisition, environmental testing and remeditation, demolition and more. Elmhurst Auto Group has been in Elmhurst since 1961.

According to the agreement, BMW of North America had informed Elmhurst Auto Group the size of the existing dealership is inadequate to meet franchise standards, and without a significant expansion, the group's franchise would not be renewed.

Elmhurst Auto Group plans to redevelop the property with an about 51,145-square-foot automobile sales and repair facility and related site improvements, according to the agreement.

The redevelopment agreement is expected to be presented for approval at the next City Council meeting Nov. 20.

Alderman Scott Levin was absent for the meeting.

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