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‘Tremendous Opportunity’: A Look At Award-Winning Business Expansion In Arlington Heights, Illinois

Downtown Arlington Heights, Illinois

Some communities struggle to maintain business activity and foot traffic in their downtowns, but not Arlington Heights, Illinois, a municipality northwest of Chicago that has been ranked one of the best places to live in the state.

Residents and visitors say that Arlington Heights provides its population with a quieter lifestyle away from the hustle and bustle of Chicago while still offering access to urban amenities the big city has to offer. Perhaps the most lauded aspect of the village, however, is its award-winning downtown center. 

Acting as the gathering place for the village’s 77,000 residents and hundreds of thousands of annual visitors, Downtown Arlington Heights is home to nearly 40 restaurants and 30 shops and boutiques — in addition to a variety of entertainment venues, public parks and new housing developments.

“Downtown Arlington Heights has received numerous accolades and is a very desirable community in the Chicago suburban area,” said Michael Mertes, business development manager for the Village of Arlington Heights. “We’ve been awarded ‘the best downtown atmosphere in the Chicago suburban area’ by Daily Herald readers for more than 10 years now, and we’re always implementing new ways to make our village even better.”

Beyond downtown, Arlington Heights is expanding as new office buildings, industrial facilities, mixed-use developments and multifamily housing come online. 

The village has more than 5.4M SF each of commercial and industrial space and is in the process of adding nearly a dozen projects throughout the community. This includes the Hickory-Kensington Apartments with 76 residential units and 3,400 SF of commercial space.

Another is Arlington Downs, a 27-acre mixed-use development that is home to 500 housing units with more proposed, a 40K SF First Ascent rock climbing facility/fitness center and 25N Coworking, a flexible office space for businesses of all sizes. 

The Northwest Gateway Center, a spec industrial development, has also just delivered more than 500K SF of new manufacturing and warehousing space. Mertes said that its proximity to Illinois 53, with direct access to Interstates 90, 290 and 355, provides easy and convenient access to the rest of the region.

“There’s tremendous opportunity here for both new and growing businesses,” he said. “We’re getting a new hotel, manufacturing and distribution space, mixed-use developments and more to account for the investment we’re expecting in the next few years.”

To grow local businesses and get residents and visitors active in the community, the village has implemented its Downtown Arlington Alfresco program, an outdoor dining experience that runs annually from May through September, Mertes said.

The Arlington Alfresco program, an annual outdoor dining experience

“Arlington Alfresco started in 2020 as a way to support local businesses during the pandemic, and it has become one of Chicagoland’s largest and most exciting outdoor dining experiences,” he said. 

During Arlington Alfresco, the town dedicates four blocks to a pedestrian-only outdoor dining and shopping experience that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from the Chicago area and beyond.

Last year, the town’s retail businesses brought in a record $1.57B in sales, Mertes said. This figure marks a $283M increase from 2019. 

“We've recovered very strongly from the pandemic,” Mertes said. “Our local economy is expanding to heights we haven’t seen before, and we’re very excited to see how our town continues to grow.”

Restaurants and shops aren’t the only draws for people downtown. Theaters and entertainment venues, including the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Big Shot Piano Lounge and Hey Nonny, are an active part of the Downtown Arlington Heights experience.

The 350-seat Metropolis Performing Arts Centre is one of the leading performing arts centers in the greater Chicago area, hosting music acts, comedy shows and live theater. Notably, the venue hosts the annual show A Christmas Carol, an Arlington Heights tradition, Mertes said. Hey Nonny is an intimate venue that hosts live music nearly every night, in addition to hosting music festivals such as the upcoming Women’s Jazz Festival.

Mertes said that over the next several years, the increase in population the village anticipates will help support its 3,000-plus businesses and boost Arlington Heights’ community services and infrastructure.

“We have a very diverse economy,” Mertes said. “About 30% of people who work in Arlington Heights work in the healthcare sector, and 10% each work in professional services, retail and education. Many people also work at the large corporations that call our community home.”

Major employers in the village include United Airlines, Amazon, GE Healthcare, Frito Lay and Northwest Community Healthcare, he said. To help businesses expand into the area, the community has several incentive programs, including the zero-interest loan program and the small-business sales tax rebate program. 

“All of this growth goes to show ongoing interest and investment in Arlington Heights,” Mertes said.

This article was produced in collaboration between the village of Arlington Heights and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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