RCOLA – A 60-acre resort in Douglas County may begin construction this spring, more than two years after plans for the eco-friendly destination were announced.
Green Mill Village is envisioned to be a hotel/conference center/spa/retail complex located off Illinois 133 and Egyptian Trail Road, just east of the Interstate 57 interchange in Arcola.
Developer Bob McElwee said his contractors built roads on the site in the fall of 2008 and the city of Arcola completed water and sewer work there last fall. Construction on the hotel and other buildings could not begin until the sewer work was finished, he said.
"All the infrastructure is now complete," he said. "We're on schedule to begin construction as soon as weather permits," he said. "We plan to start building as soon as we can."
First up will be construction of the hotel and conference center and spa. It won't be a "cookie-cutter hotel," he said.
"We're striving for platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. It will be one of the greenest hotels not only in the U.S., but in the world," he said.
Plans call for later constructing retail shops, a restaurant, pool, tennis courts, playground and service station.
McElwee publishes the online magazine Modern Travel, which is geared toward readers interested in green or sustainable travel, and a few years ago he was also briefly the owner of the Amish Country tourist attraction Rockome Gardens near Arcola and Arthur.
The project has been delayed a bit by the need to purchase a nearby farm in order to expand an intersection and create another lane of traffic at the site, according to McElwee.
"We're hopeful that they can resume their construction schedule this year," said Bill Wagoner, city administrator for Arcola.
Not including engineering costs, the city so far has spent about $750,000 on water and sewer work, such as extending water and sewer lines to the site and installing a sewer lift station on the site. In addition, Arcola purchased the property for Green Mill Village for $1.5 million.
"Our industrial park was built on that premise: We provide free land with the guarantee they (the developer) would develop it," Wagoner said.
According to the city's agreement with Green Mill Village, the infrastructure had to be in place within 18 months of the agreement being signed. The developer met the January 2010 deadline, Wagoner said. A certain amount of square footage of the hotel and retail buildings also need to be built within five years.
"They started working on it two years before the first shovel hit ground out there," Wagoner said. Since then, the recession hit and "it's a whole different ball game out there," he said.
Last year, as some hotels around the country faced default or foreclosure and some hotel projects have been delayed due to the recession and the challenges of obtaining financing, McElwee said he has not had any such problems.
"I'm glad it's taken a little longer. This is my first big project like this," he said, adding that he's working on developing several other sustainable hotels in the region.
The $30 million to $40 million resort will be funded by a combination of private equity and traditional bank financing, he said.
McElwee said he could not reveal any names yet, but he expected to announce additional partners in the venture. That announcement may come in the next two months, he said.
The project also may expand onto additional property, meaning the scope of the project will also expand, he said. "The new component has the potential to add new jobs. That's why I'm so excited. Because one of my missions for this project is to keep good-paying jobs in central Illinois."
He declined to reveal any more information about the possible expansion.