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ROCKFORD, IL-A restaurant and guitar museum being developed by Rick Nielsen, from the band Cheap Trick, and a Hyatt Place will be neighbors to the Preferred Outlets at Rockford at the southwest corner of Riverside Boulevard and Interstate 90. Nielsen and Brent Johnson, owner of Rockford-based Ringland-Johnson Construction, are developing the $25-million restaurant and hotel project at the same site of the $90-million Preferred Outlets at Rockford retail center, which is being developed by a joint venture of Land Capital Group Inc., based in Park City, UT, and Ariel Preferred Retail Group LLC, headquartered in Williamsburg, VA.

The 80,000-sf hotel will have 127 rooms, Johnson says. Rick’s will be a 20,000-sf facility with a restaurant, guitar museum, banquet facilities for up to 250 people and a performance venue. Nielsen “is a passionate musician and guitar collector,” Johnson says. This will be the third restaurant for Nielsen, who also owns Piece Brewery & Pizzeria in Chicago, and The Stockholm Inn, here.

Nielsen, who grew up and lives in Rockford, says performers will range from his own band and other major bands to local ones. The guitar museum is expected to have a rotating selection of more than 400 guitars. Guitars Nielsen has played will be displayed in addition to ones from John Lennon, Lenny Kravitz, John Mayer and others. Pieces from Nielsen’s collection have been displayed at various exhibition venues, including the Boston Museum of Fine Art and the Henry Ford Museum, among others.

The Preferred Outlets at Rockford will have about 420,000 sf of retail space. Construction is expected to begin in the spring with the center slated to open a year later in the spring of 2009. Tenants are not being announced yet and will likely not be announced before the groundbreaking, says Don Chapman, managing director of opeartions and development for Ariel Preferred.

However, he says “tenant interest in this location is some of the most robust I have seen in years.” Between 80% and 85% of the tenants in the center are expected to be the same as those in other Preferred Outlets locations. The shopping center is expected to generate more than $125 million in sales revenue each year, according to Chapman.

The outlet center and Rick’s are each separately expected to attract people, which should benefit both, Johnson says. The two groups of developers were attracted to the site because it is easily accessible from Interstate 90 and has visibility along the expressway and is also near Interstate 39.

“It is the cross roads of people going north and people going south,” Nielsen says. “The number of people that go by there everyday is huge.” There is a population of nearly five million residents within a 60-mile radius of the site, according to Chapman.

The land for the restaurant, hotel and outlet center was acquired by the two groups from locally-based LandMark Development, which had originally planned to develop an outlet shopping center. Nielsen and Ringland-Johnson acquired about six acres, and the joint venture between Land Capital Group and Ariel Preferred acquired 34 acres. The joint venture also acquired an additional 12 acres on an adjoining parcel from an undisclosed seller for an undisclosed amount inorder to have enough property for the outlet center and “so we will have some pad space” for potential themed restaurants and a bank, Chapman says.

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