Montgomery OKs pact for first of two $200,000 grants for Gray’s Mill banquet facility

The Montgomery Village Board voted 4-2 Monday evening, Jan. 11, to approve a conditional grant agreement with a development group seeking to renovate and locate a banquet facility and other businesses in the historic Gray’s Mill building at River and Mill streets in the village’s downtown.

Under terms of the agreement, the village will award the first of two previously approved $200,000 grants to Gray’s Mill Partners, LLC at the time the village issues a building permit for the first of the project’s two development phases.

Richard Young, the village’s community development director, told board members that the board will have to determine a timeframe for the awarding of the second $200,000 grant.

“Maybe substantial completion of the work or at some other point in the process of the development of this site the second grant would be released,” Young said.

When questioned by board members, Young said the village has not yet issued a building permit to the developers, but expect to do so this month, pending review of project plans.

Board members Theresa Sperling and Tom Betsinger cast the negative votes on the motion to approve the grant agreement.

Board member Doug Marecek voiced support for issuing the grants but said he believes the village should “hold the line” on issuing the second grant until the developers request an occupancy permit for the businesses when the project is complete.

Board member Steve Jungermann and Village President Matt Brolley both said they agreed with Marecek.

“I look forward to the redevelopment of that building and seeing it come back to life,” said Brolley. The building has sat vacant in recent years.

Addressing the developers, Brolley added, “We’re excited and happy to have you here.”

The board voted 5-1 during a Dec. 14 meeting to instruct the village’s attorney to prepare documents for the two grants totaling $400,000. In addition, the board voted 5-1 to enter into a sales tax rebate agreement with the developers worth up to $150,000.

The village’s development fund committee previously reviewed the developers’ grant request and recommended it for board approval.

During the Dec. 14 meeting, Betsinger cast the lone negative ballot on the motion to approve the sales tax rebate agreement.

Betsinger explained he is in favor of the project, but expressed concern at the total amount of money – $550,000 – the village is committing to what is a private project.

“The sales tax rebate agreement is a little over and above, given the projected revenues and expenses for this project,” Betsinger said. “That extra $10,000 a year [in rebated sales tax for 15 years] is not going to stop the project. It’s not going to make or break it. There needs to be a line somewhere, and I’m not suggesting I know where that line is.”

Between the grants and sales tax rebate agreement, Betsinger said the village will be funding about one-third of the project and expressed concern about the village setting a precedent for funding future redevelopment projects.

During a board meeting Oct. 26, Phil Cullen, owner of Ballydoyle’s Irish Pub & Restaurant of Aurora and Downers Grove and a partner in Gray’s Mill Partners LLC, detailed the development group’s 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 the proposal calls for five business concepts for the property, including 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.

On the building’s grounds, Cullen said project plans call for a cocktail bar to be housed in a converted farm grain bin to be place don the site and a German-style beer garden.

In addition, Cullen said the partners are proposing to construct a two-story deck on the east side of the Mill building with a retractable roof, similar to one he added to the building that houses Empire Burger & Brew in downtown Naperville. The deck area would provide additional space for wedding banquets and events inside.

Referring to his Gray’s Mill proposal, Cullen told the board the partners’ 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 said his firm’s investment in the project will total more than $1 million.

John Etheredge

Editor of the Record Newspapers and, John's career as a journalist in Kendall County began in 1981. Over the years his news beats have included county government, municipal government, school boards, police and more. He also writes editorials on local issues and the weekly Kendall County Government Newsletter.