Montgomery Village Board members voiced support Monday evening, July 27, to a village staff proposal aimed at encouraging the opening of restaurants in the village's downtown Mill District area.
As described by Richard Young, the village's community development director, the restaurant stimulus plan calls for the village to expand the scope of its existing Montgomery Development Fund (MDF) program to include "generous incentives" to attract restaurant tenants to the Mill District.
The Mill District area is bordered to the east by the Fox River, to the north by Mill Street, to the west by Main Street and to the south by Webster Street, according to the village's 2005 Mill District master plan.
In a memo to the board, Young noted that new restaurants "could be the cornerstone of a Mill District revival, but major capital investment will be needed."
He continued, "Through the use of subsidies of between $100,000 and $200,000 for each application, new restaurant tenants could use incentives to upgrade mechanical systems, add kitchen equipment, upgrade needed grease-trap systems, refurbish outdated structures, add outdoor dining areas or even build a new structure."
Young told the board that subsidies could be especially helpful for restaurant owners or developers who face what he described as a "major expense" in upgrading grease-trap systems to meet the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District's waste water requirements.
Young said the financial assistance would be in the form of grants and applicants would be required to complete the existing application process established for the MDF program.
He added that the village would require any business that was awarded a grant through the program to remain in business for at least three years, otherwise the village would recall the grant.
Board member Denny Lee asked that mobile food vendors be excluded from the program.
Board member Doug Maracek suggested that grants be proportionately scaled to fit the size of the planned restaurant.
Jump-starting business development in the village's downtown area has been a long-standing goal for a succession of village officials over the past two decades.
In his memo, Young noted that a focus on dining in the Mill District area "would mark a new direction in the village's sense of community and economic strategy." He added, "A recent edition of the publication 'Downtown Idea Exchange' noted that food and drink are key parts of any thriving downtown."
Village President Matt Brolley voiced support for the program, noting that it would represent a major investment by the village in its downtown area.
With the board's approval, Brolley asked Young to proceed with drafting guidelines for the program for further board consideration and a final vote.