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BELLWOOD | It was plain to see everybody was lovin’ it on Monday when the McDonald’s restaurant on 25th Avenue in Bellwood celebrated its grand re-opening after being closed for three months in order to undergo renovations of around $1 million.
Owners Jan and Ray Nelson, village officials including Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey, school officials, Cook County officials—most notably 1st District County Commissioner Richard Boykin— state lawmakers such as Sen. Kimberly Lightford, other dignitaries and even Ronald McDonald himself crowded into the lobby and dining area of the new and improved McDonald’s, which originally opened in Bellwood in 1996.
“We’re very grateful for the community and the village for all the help they’ve given us in getting stuff done and all the people coming back to the restaurant,” Jan Nelson said. She noted that the restaurant has “the latest and greatest of everything” including digital kiosks, a digital menu board, a double drive-thru and mobile order delivery. “It is what we call a restaurant with an experience of the future,” she said.
“It’s overwhelming,” Ray Nelson added. “We’re so appreciative of the community and they’ve been so supportive of this restaurant ever since we’ve opened it.”
“I think it’s great for the community,” Boykin said. “It means economic development, it means investment in the community, in Bellwood, it means more tax dollars in the village of Bellwood, and more things that McDonald’s can get involved in to support local activities and that sort of thing. I think that’s why you see all the excitement from the people and this is a great thing. I’m excited for this, I’m excited for the Nelsons, I’m excited for the village of Bellwood.”
The new McDonald’s, of course, brings tax revenue into the village, but Ray noted the job opportunities that exist for residents, as well.
“One of the things we’ve enjoyed being in the McDonald’s business is being able to hire from within the community and get people jobs, and in some cases, give them careers,” he said. “We’ve already hired a lot of people within the community and we’re hopeful that some of them will stay with us for a long time.”
“I’m overwhelmed and just blessed that the Nelsons would renovate the store that we love and make it a state-of-the-art store,” said Harvey, who worked at McDonald’s as a youngster. “One thing about the village of Bellwood: we’re a family, a family-friendly type of village. When we have events like this, the entire neighborhood comes out to support everything that we do here. We just want to let the Nelson family know that we welcome them and we fully support all their efforts.”
Both Harvey and Ray Nelson want to see redevelopment of the 25th Avenue corridor to complement McDonald’s. “We hope this is the start of the redevelopment of 25th Avenue,” Ray said. Harvey pointed out that things are moving in a positive direction regarding that redevelopment. “Things are going pretty good,” he said. “Right now with the (25th Avenue) bridge being open, we have more traffic on 25th Avenue, we have more people calling that are interested in the mall that is here, about how to rent space.
“We have our Thornton’s Gas Station that has completed demolition and now is building so they expect to be open in December. We have a new U-Haul storage facility going in at the 900 block of 25th (Avenue) and they’re ready to go. We have the cement masons at Madison and 25th. They’re halfway done with their building so things are picking up. We want this to actually be a huge thoroughfare through Bellwood and one of our main arteries to and from Bellwood.
“We want to keep taxes as flat as possible for our residents because our residents deserve that. The more economic development we do, the better it is for the residents of our community to not have to raise taxes.”
Boykin also is fighting to keep western Cook County residents from having to pay more taxes. He’s been an outspoken critic of the county’s controversial and, according to polls, unpopular tax on sugary beverages. The McDonald’s in Bellwood, he said, isn’t immune to this tax.
“At the county, we have to stop passing laws that actually kill and stifle economic development,” he said. “One of the things, of course, is this beverage tax that we must repeal because it’s adding additional costs to taxpayers and it’s a burden on businesses as well. Here (at McDonald’s) they have to pay for the syrup, and they have to pay it upfront, so that’s an additional cost. But then again, we’ve made ourselves the highest sales tax in the United States here in Cook County.”
Boykin said the process to begin repealing the sugary drink tax could come as early as Tuesday, Oct. 10, when the county’s Finance Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing. ‘I’m going to work to repeal the beverage tax,” he said. “In fact, I think we’re going to be able to repeal it. I think it’s important that we do it.”