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Event venue business hopes to host weddings and parties in Landings shopping area

WaddieAnn Events recommended by Planning and Zoning Board for special use

By Josh Bootsma

LANSING, Ill. (September 10, 2020) – WaddieAnn Walton is an entrepreneur with an eye for design. About three years ago, those skills led her to open an event venue in Matteson, IL. Now, Walton hopes to grow her business by moving it to Lansing.

Walton came before the Lansing Planning and Zoning Board on September 9 to request a special use permit to operate an event venue business at 16841 Torrence Avenue, in the heart of the Landings shopping area. Walton answered the Board’s questions before it voted unanimously to recommend that the Village of Lansing grant Walton the special use permit.

Out of the old, into the new

Walton said her current location in Matteson has served her well, but is somewhat limited in space and in need of repair. The owner of the property recommended that Walton look at another of its properties, 16841 Torrence Ave., as an upgraded location for her. Walton agreed and took the necessary steps to come before the Village with a proposal. She said the new location will have roughly 3,500 square feet of hosting space, whereas her Matteson location has only 2,500.

Walton’s current venue in Matteson, pictured above, can comfortably hold about 100 people. She hopes to be able to hold closer to 150 at the new location. (Photo courtesy of WaddieAnn Walton)

“I have a lot of inquiries, but I can’t fulfill [some of] them because of my space,” Walton said of her current location. She hopes that she’ll be able to fit something like 150 people in the Lansing location, after COVID restrictions have been relaxed.

Walton said her business is focused on parties mostly for older individuals and weddings. She does not currently have a kitchen or offer any food or drink services, and she plans to operate the Lansing location the same way, assuming her proposal is approved by the Village Board. Renters of Walton’s venue will have to bring their own food or catering service to events, and they will have to provide decorations as well.

If approved by the Village Board, Walton’s event venue will be neighbors to Octapharma Plasma. The shared building is immediately to the north of Forman Mills. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Walton said that although she currently does not allow alcohol, she’s open to exploring the possibility of a liquor license in the future. “Especially if you’re having a wedding or reception, everybody wants to do a toast,” she said. She said that even a limited allowance for liquor would be good for her business. “That would be better than nothing at all, because [not allowing liquor] is another way you lose business.” Walton mentioned that she hires security for all of her events.

Apart from cosmetic changes needed to the Landings location like new carpet and painted walls, Walton has worked with the Lansing building and fire authorities to see what else needs to be addressed. She said the main thing needed is another bathroom that meets ADA requirements.

The current interior of 16841 Torrence Avenue, located in the Landings shopping area. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

COVID Cautious

Walton said COVID forced her business to close in March and she wasn’t able to reopen until late June. Even now that she’s open, she’s very cautious and particular about enforcing health guidelines. She requires that parties stay below the 50 person maximum, and requires that attendees wear masks during events, except while eating and drinking. “I have diabetes, so I have a pre-existing illness so I can’t expose myself. And I have a son who’s at home with me and can’t expose … my family members to somebody [that doesn’t] adhere to the guidelines of the state.”

Lansing part of larger dream

WaddieAnn Walton is excited to bring her event venue business to the Landings in Lansing, the same location where she used to shop about 15 years ago. (Photo courtesy of WaddieAnn Walton)

Walton, who has a Master’s degree in organizational leadership, said her entrepreneurial spirit makes her want to turn her small business into a larger franchise, with locations through the area and potentially even around the country. For now, Walton is excited at the thought of opening a business in the Landing shopping area, the same area where she would often shop 15 years ago.

Before moving to Matteson, Walton was a Calumet City resident and can remember many of the Landings businesses that have come and gone in the last years. “It’s like a pat on the back when you can become a part of your community, not as a resident but as a business owner, so that means a lot to me,” she said. “It’s like going back to your high school and you’ve made this huge accomplishment—you’re a senator, or a CEO of a bank, or a famous athlete. It’s a good feeling.”

Walton, who has three grown children, said she will sometimes ask her children to help her set up and tear down before and after events. “I got my degrees when they were little kids. … My kids were right there for all my accomplishments and I think it means a lot for myself, as a single parent, to show them that with hard work and determination, whatever you set your mind to, you can achieve it.”

Walton will appear before the Village Board on Tuesday, October 6. Village Board meetings are held at 7 p.m. at the Lansing Municipal Court Complex (the police station) at 2710 170th Street.

Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.