The menu of restaurant options in Moline — as well as at SouthPark Mall — soon will include a long-awaited Olive Garden.
The national Italian chain is set to open its doors at 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 11, an Olive Garden spokeswoman confirmed Monday. It plans to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce the same day.
Landing an Olive Garden for the Illinois Quad-Cities has been among the top requests fielded by SouthPark management and Moline's economic development leaders alike.
"It's one we've had a lot of interest in the last few years," said Dennis Gilliam, senior property manager for SouthPark and NorthPark malls. "We have an Olive Garden at NorthPark and customers do come over to Davenport and eat. But they (Illinois customers) wanted one of their own. We got that loud and clear."
While the City of Moline and SouthPark have worked to recruit the restaurant, he said "the market has to be right for a restaurant for them to want to do it. We're excited and anxious to have them open."
The new 6,800-square-foot restaurant, located at 4570 16th St., will feature Olive Garden's latest restaurant design, Jessica Dinon, public relations manager, said in an email. From the new style exterior to the interior finishes, customers will find new artwork, fabrics and materials, seating, countertops and flooring, as well as the display of a new '"Olive Garden Italian Kitchen" logo sign.
She said the Moline store is among about 10 now under construction by the Orlando, Florida-based Olive Garden. It joins more than 840 other Olive Gardens in 49 states.
The Moline restaurant was built by Belisle Construction, Inc., of Crest Hill, Illinois.
According to Dinon, as opening day nears "the team is focused mainly on training our new team members."
The general manager is Carrie Bisby. The restaurant created more than 180 new jobs. It will have capacity for more than 250 customers.
"We've been thrilled with the reaction of the Moline community," she added. "We're glad that guests are excited and we can't wait to open our doors."
Gilliam said Olive Garden was built on an outparcel south of Arby's "that has been empty all these years." Olive Garden, which owns all its restaurants, is leasing the lot from SouthPark.
"I can't tell you how many calls we've had over the years from interested parties that wanted us to have an Olive Garden over here in Illinois, and wondered why we didn't," he said. "They were quite vocal about it."
The national chain's arrival is expected to spark even more interest in SouthPark, which has been working to reinvent itself with a major remodeling and the new Dick's Sporting Goods.
"We plan to use this to attract additional sit-down restaurants of a like kind," Gilliam said. "We're working with two or three national restaurant chains we'd like to see come here."