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Council OKs funds to revive Aurora’s Restaurant Row

Updated: March 28, 2013 6:21AM

AURORA — Vernon LaVia’s new Restaurant Row project received the green light from the City Council Tuesday night.

Aldermen voted 9-1 to approve two tax increment financing deals — one with LaVia, and another authorizing the city to buy a neighboring property on Restaurant Row, along New York Street in downtown Aurora. The more than $1 million in TIF deals pave the way for Batavia-based Italian restaurant Aliano’s to open an Aurora site. Alderman Rick Lawrence, 4th Ward, voted against the deal.

Under the complex agreement, the city is committing $750,000 in TIF dollars to 5 Way LLC, the landlord that would come to own 29, 31 and 33 W. New York St. LaVia is current owner of the 29 W. New York St. property, formerly known as Bacci’s Pizzeria, and owns 5 Way LLC.

Aliano’s will occupy the street level of 29 W. New York St., as well as the lower level of 29, 31 and 33 W. New York St. TIF funds will allow for a renovation of the property and a build-out of a deck facing the Fox River.

LaVia would also become owner of the 31 and 33 W. New York St. properties, which are currently occupied by Chef Amaury’s Epicurean Affair. LaVia said Amaury Rosado’s restaurant will stay in place under the proposed deal and Rosado supports the new restaurant project.

Alderman Mike Saville, 6th Ward, said this project is exactly the type of project downtown TIF funds should support. “The good news is we are seeing dynamic activity occurring,” Saville said. “There was a time when storefronts would become vacant and would stay vacant.”

City attorney Alayne Weingartz said Lawrence needed to explain why he abstained on votes in the Restaurant Row in the past, but no longer wished to abstain from votes on Restaurant Row projects. Lawrence owns a neighboring property.

Lawrence said he previously abstained because he didn’t feel like getting in a disagreement with corporate counsel, and opposed this deal. “Restaurant Row — try it again and in a year, when you’re wondering what happened again, you can thank Tom,” Lawrence said of Mayor Tom Weisner.

Weisner said Lawrence’s explanation was inadequate.

The Aliano deal hinged on the city’s purchase of a property at 35 W. New York St., which aldermen also approved Tuesday night. Under that deal, the city is purchasing the property, formerly known as the Lamplighter Tavern, for $280,000 using TIF funds from seller Marie F. Leach, according to city documents.

The former Lamplighter property has been vacant for about eight years, LaVia said.

City Chief Development Officer Bill Wiet said the city may market the 35 W. New York St. property with the property next door at 37 W. New York St., the site of the former Comfort Zone barbecue restaurant. Comfort Zone closed in December 2011. It opened in September 2009 on the north side of Restaurant Row, at the time a project by developer Steve Arwady.

In a previous Restaurant Row deal, about $500,000 in TIF funding was paid to Arwady.

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