Montgomery Village Board members voiced unanimous support Monday evening, Oct. 26, for a proposal to extensively renovate the historic Gray's Mill building at River and Mill streets for multiple new uses as envisioned by Phil Cullen, owner of Ballydoyle's Irish Pub & Restaurant of Aurora and Downers Grove.
Cullen detailed his plans to locate "The Gray's Mill Estate" in the former mill which was constructed in 1854 along the west bank of the Fox River by the village's founder, Daniel Gray.
Cullen said his proposal calls for five different business concepts for the property which include the opening of a neighborhood speakeasy and gaming parlor on the building's lower level, a wedding banquet and event space on the building's first and second floors, and a loft on the building's top level for use by wedding parties and as an Airbnb.
Outside on the building's grounds, Cullen proposes to locate a cocktail bar in a converted farm grain bin and a German-style beer garden.
In addition, Cullen is proposing to construct a two story deck on the east side of the Mill building with a retractable roof, similar to one he constructed onto the building that houses Empire Burger & Brew in downtown Naperville. The deck area would provide additional space for wedding banquets and events inside the Mill.
Cullen told board members he has been in the food service business for about 30 years, including the past 20 in the restaurant/bar business. He said he opened Ballydoyle in Downers Grove about 18 years ago and Ballydoyle Aurora eight years ago. More recently, he has opened other restaurants, including Empire Burgers & Brew.
Referring to his Gray's Mill proposal, Cullen told the board his mission is to provide "families a place where they can come, sit down and relax. They can have great food, great drinks, enjoy entertainment in a great atmosphere and just kind of enjoy themselves inside and outside."
Cullen emphasized that he appreciates the history of the building and would seek to enhance its historic features as part of the renovations as he has done with Ballydoyle in downtown Aurora and Downers Grove.
"For me, what I enjoy doing is taking a location that nobody wants, it's gone, and giving it new life," he said. "We've got that at Gray's Mill and we are the people who can do it."
Cullen said his firm's investment in the project would total over $1 million.
As part of the project's approval process, Cullen said his firm would seek village approval of a total of $400,000 in downtown incentive grants along with a sales tax rebate and assistance in dealing with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers on flood control measures.
Village president Matt Brolley said he appreciates Cullen's vision for the property and is looking forward to the village partnering with him in renovating the now vacant building.
"This is something that has been on everyone's radar for decades--long before I was involved in the village--to find somebody who was interested in creating this type of destination," Brolley said.
Board member Steve Jungermann also voiced support for the proposal, noting that it could help give the village and its downtown an identity that could lead to further development such as a boutique hotel.
"I think it was an outstanding presentation and I'm truly excited about this," Jungermann said.
Board member Dan Gier said he had many questions about the project going into the meeting, but Cullen answered them in his presentation.
"I think it is going to be a good thing for the downtown," Gier added. "I"m kind of sorry I moved out of the downtown area out to the west side now because there is so much going on there now and it's walkable."
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