Plans progress for Portillo’s, windmill
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org July 5, 2012 12:10AM
An artist's illustration of the planned Portillos in Elgin.
Updated: August 6, 2012 11:43AM
ELGIN — You could say that this week’s planning and zoning meeting served up an interesting combo of projects, both of which should be up and running within the next six months or so.
Commissioners moved along plans for a Portillo’s restaurant at the southwest corner of Bowes and Randall roads (on the property holding the Sam’s Club under construction), and for a refurbished windmill to go up on vacant property adjacent to Foundry Park on the west bank of the Fox River downtown.
Community Development Director Marc Mylott said Portillo’s will be on the City Council agenda for July 11, and if all goes well the restaurant should be open by next January or February.
Senior Planner Sarosh Saher said the windmill should come before the council at either the July 25 or the Aug. 8 session, and if approved should be up this fall.
Portillo’s new design
Mylott said the city has been in discussion with Portillo’s since November. At one time the restaurateur was considering a spot near the Meijer along Randall, but wound up choosing what should be a very busy corner with Walmart, Sam’s and Nick’s Pizza on the same side of Bowes and Randall.
The Portillo’s will feature the Chicago-area chain’s new design and look similar to one set to open this September in New Lenox, Mylott said.
With proposed zoning tweaks, the Portillo’s will be built on a 45-degree angle to the corner of the intersection, so that three building facades will be visible from the roads, and a fourth side will be oriented to the interior of a shopping center. Plans also call for a sign above the main roof of the building.
Portillo’s Hot Dogs Inc. also hopes to buy an adjacent lot that it will lease to another business.
The 8,400-square-foot restaurant would have an outdoor eating area and a two-lane drive-through designed to accommodate the traffic Portillo’s establishments frequently draw. Unlike other locations, the Elgin restaurant will not be directly accessible off the main road. Mylott said he does not anticipate a need for off-duty police to direct traffic as is done in Schaumburg.
He said Portillo’s went above and beyond with its landscape design, and that the site is set up to attract walkers and bicyclists, too.
Special zoning amendments would allow Portillo’s to paint, then distress, six nostalgic graphics on the sides of the building.
While the Randall Road corridor will be getting a popular restaurant, the downtown will be getting a touch of the city’s past.
Saher said that the city was approached earlier this year by the Elgin Area Historical Society about putting up the refurbished 65-foot-tall windmill as an art piece on the land at 51 N. State St., and just across Route 31 from Mountain Street.
EAHS President George Rowe said that group vice president Marty Dyer found the windmill in 2004 in front of property at McLean Boulevard and Larkin Avenue, where it had been since the 1920s.
According to Mike Alft’s book, “Days Gone By,” the home at 1310 Larkin Ave. was built by George Peck in 1922-23 for his son Richard K. Peck. The mill provided water for the residence, which was outside the city limits at the time.
The book said windmills were produced in Elgin for more than 60 years. George Peck was a department store owner and president of the Elgin Wind Power and Pump Co. from 1910-1935. Richard Peck was a pioneer Elgin aviator killed in 1931 near Wheaton while testing an experimental plane sponsored by the Chicago Daily News.
Back to the present, Frank Engel of Hampshire restored the windmill’s fan head to working condition, and the wooden cistern and metal tower were conserved as well, Rowe noted.
The EAHS briefly considered putting the windmill up by its own museum, but decided the riverside site was perfect.
“It’s going up where it was built,” Rowe said.
According to supporting material for the planning and zoning meeting, the land in question “was added to Elgin as part of William C. Kimball’s Plat of the West Side of Elgin in 1843. The property was developed with a number of industrial and commercial uses, most notably the Woodruff & Edwards Company Foundry and Warehouse, the Elgin Butter Tub Company and the Elgin Wind Power and Pump Company, the latter being located approximately at the junction of Mountain Street and North State Street. The warehouse of the company continues to remain at what is commonly known as 202 Mountain Street (Heider Electric Company Building).”
Thus, the windmill will honor Elgin’s industrial past and remind people that this green technology is part of the city’s history, Rowe said.
So far, volunteer hours have been used on the project, and more than 50 people have helped, Rowe said. It will cost $3,000 to $4,000 to put in footings for the structure, and the EAHS is seeking grant money to help cover this amount.