“Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood: Arlington Heights | Chicago News
Located on the northwest side of Chicago, Arlington Heights is a suburban neighbor of O’Hare Airport and about a 40-minute drive from downtown. The village is one of the largest in the northwest suburbs and, of course, is home to what until last weekend was the world-famous Arlington International Racecourse.
Interactive map: More from our series of community reports
As announced earlier this week, Arlington could be the Chicago Bears’ new home before the decade is out.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for the village,” said Mayor Thomas Hayes. “Like I said before it was officially announced my goal has always been to use this property to its fullest and best and I can’t really think of a better and higher use than this. Truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for us as a village, as a region of the Northwest, and for the Chicago Bears as well to develop this property into something they can call their own.
Video: Watch our full interview with Thomas Hayes
After nearly 100 years of racing, the community bids farewell to Arlington International Racecourse.
Tony Petrillo, a longtime resident of Arlington Heights and president of Arlington International Racecourse for 20 years, says he chooses to focus on the positive side of things.
“I am very optimistic,” said Petrillo. “I tend to focus on blessings rather than curses. It was truly a blessing to work with such a large group of people who were very dedicated to something we call the “Arlington Way”.
Video: Watch our full interview with Tony Petrillo
But the move could also mean a big economic boost for local businesses.
“It opens the door to a lot of possibilities and I see community leaders coming together,” said Jon Ridler, executive director of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce. “Joining the conversation is going to be exciting, but companies are also starting to think about how they can take this opportunity to have it in our backyard. “
One of those businesses is Passero, one of the many restaurants located in the city center that offers a mix of American and Italian cuisine.
“I am very excited for this and I think it would be another big step and an addition to the village. It’s already a great place to have a business and that will only help it, ”said Matt Peota, owner of Passero.
Hayes says Arlington Heights has rebounded strongly, both socially and economically, from the pandemic.
“We really did a lot better than we expected from an economic standpoint,” said Hayes. “The village itself has only really lost about half of the income that we expected to lose from sales and food and beverage taxes.
Peota says he is grateful to the community and the Chamber of Commerce for coming together to support local businesses. Ridler says only a handful of restaurants are permanently closed.
Affordable housing has also been a priority. At the corner of Chestnut and Rand Road is a vacant lot where the last four-story affordable housing complex is expected to be built.
“We are on vacant 2.4 acres of land,” said Charles Witherington-Perkins, Director of Planning and Community Development for the Village of Arlington Heights. “It has been vacant for 19 years. Many years ago there was a restaurant on the site.
Despite concerns from some neighbors about a 40-unit affordable housing complex project, Witherington-Perkins says it will provide a cost-effective option for residents.
“We’re a very rich region in jobs and a lot of those jobs are service jobs, so they’re health care or teaching aids. These aren’t the highest paying jobs, ”Witherington-Perkins said. “The rents are quite high in this particular area, so having affordable housing will allow people to live, work and play in the area,” he added.
With around 70% of the population fully vaccinated, Ridler is optimistic about the changes to come.
“It’s this collaborative effort that people really respect and we want to continue to see that growth,” Ridler said.
If you’re looking for more to do in the area, Arlington Heights will host the Harmony Fest, an outdoor neighborhood party on October 1-2.
Community Report Series
“Chicago Tonight” Expands Community Reporting. We take to the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. Find out where we’ve been and what we’ve learned using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in Red represent our COVID-19 Across Chicago series; blue marks our “Chicago Tonight” series in Your Neighborhood.