State Moves Forward with Renovation Plans for Rend Lake Resort and Conference Center | Local news


WHITTINGTON – State moves closer to selection of contractor to oversee upgrades to Rend Lake Resort and Conference Center and related Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area amenities that have fallen into disuse and remain empty for years.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources pledged to undertake the restoration of the complex about a year ago after several multi-year attempts to find a private operator failed, in large part because the facilities are down. bad condition.

Last year, the state attempted to attract a qualified dealer by offering up to $ 1.5 million in financial incentives to help cover renovation costs. It also offered bidders several options, including the takeover and renovation of all or only some of the facilities. The property consists of a hotel and conference / event center, cabins, boats, swimming pool, restaurant, gift shop and dock with distribution station. fuel.

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“We had a lot of questions from potential suppliers, but we didn’t receive any offers,” said Rachel Torbert, spokesperson for IDNR. “That, coupled with the state’s desire to move this project forward, is what prompted us to consider turning this into a state-led renovation project in conjunction with the Capital Development Board. “

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In July, the Illinois Capital Development Board, which oversees the state’s major construction projects, issued an application for consulting architects / engineers interested in redeveloping the property to its former glory.

Interviews originally scheduled for September 30 were delayed until last Monday, but the process is moving forward, Torbert said.

Once the state completes the renovations to the property, IDNR will again seek to find a qualified dealer to take over day-to-day operations.

The resort, once considered a crown jewel in southern Illinois, attracting people from Chicago, the Metro East and across the region, has been without an operator since 2016.

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In December, IDNR announced that it had terminated the concessionaire’s lease and closed the facility. In its statement at the time, the state agency said mold, peeling paint and other health issues had been identified in the complex and conference center. In addition, the concessionaire, which operated the complex since it opened in 1990, was behind on rent and property taxes by about $ 219,000, and also owed arrears on utilities and taxes. hotelier.

Several problems led to the decline of the property. The former concessionaire paid for the construction of the hotel and conference center, but the parties were unable to come to an agreement on the property. Sources of funding for repairs have also dried up. Lawmakers across the region successfully allocated $ 5 million for capital improvements in 2013, but the money never materialized. For years, Illinois had no capital budget. That changed in 2019 with the passage of the Illinois Rebuild plan.

The IDNR has not planned a timeline for the project, except to say that it is moving forward.

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