Johnston City TIF Attracting Growth

It's not mentioned at all in today's story online at the, but it's the city-wide TIF (tax increment financing) district that's behind the flurry of new business ventures targeting Johnston City.

And behind the TIF is a mayor and city council with their backs up against the wall. It's grow or die time. Although the city finances don't show it, the city's been on a roll for the last year or so with the passage of Home Rule, followed by the creation of a TIF district that pretty much encompasses the whole city.

2011 has been a tough year, but 2012 should be much better thanks to the businesses coming with their sales tax revenues.

Projects already announced include the Village Green Homes which is relocating from Marion to the former Roland Meadows Golf Course on the west side of the interstate, and Osprey Village, a new 16-unit assisted living facility.

In addition Mayor Jim Mitchell announced two new projects yesterday. First up is a couple who wants to transform the former Catholic grade school (and more recently, an alternative school) into an antique mall. The second is a proposed new Johnston City-based taxi service.

"We're getting calls. People see we're trying to get things moving," explained Mitchell.

None of these projects are strictly tourism, but they should all strenghten the community's ability to grow. The move by Village Green represents a loss to Marion only on the surface. It also opens up six acres on the northwest side of Exit 54 in Marion to new development, particularly for restaurants and/or hotels.

For inquiries about Marion or Johnston City land available for commercial development, contact Jon Musgrave at Paul Wilson Realty in Marion at

Chester Gives New Motel OK For TIF

The proposed Microtel motel project in Chester will move forward with the city's help following a 5-4 vote last night by the city council.

The Southern Illinoisan has the story.

Mayor Joe Eggemeyer cast the deciding vote after the council split 4-4. The vote was just to start negotiations with the developers over the use of TIF funds. If an agreement is reached the council will hold another vote.
Project partners James Best of Chester, John Bergfeld of Sparta and John Pawloski of Godfrey are proposing to build a $6.5 million, 60- to 85-room hotel development at the site of the old Hi-3 motel, which has been closed for about 20 years.

Chester currently has one hotel, Reid's Best Western Inn, owned by Brad Reid, also the owner of Reid's Harvest House.

If an agreement is reached, the paper noted that the developers are eligible to be reimbursed for up to 75 percent of the new property taxes generated from their improvements.

Illinois law doesn't allow TIF funds to be used for new construction, but costs associated with the property acquisition, demolition of the old motel, site preparations and dirt work would be eligible expenses.

Pilot Travel Center Opens in Marion

Pilot #595, the new Pilot Travel Center that took the place of the old Marion truck stop, opened this morning with a bit of a price war, selling regular unleaded for just $3.09. That's 20 cents a gallon below the Illinois average of $3.29, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

The new pilot includes 5 showers, 43 parking spaces, 7 diesel lanes, and for truckers DEF at the pump, TransFlo Scanning and certified CAT scales.

As previously noted, the old Refuge Restaurant and buffet has been replaced with the city's fourth Subway.

Pilot purchased the truck stop Sept. 21, closed it and entirely gutted the building. Only a small portion of the old restaurant wall built following the 1982 tornado remains as it did before the remodeling.

The only downside — other than the Subway — is the requirement to prepay at the pump or use a card.

Ryan Companies Working on Boulder Creek Site Plan

When Marion Mayor Bob Butler told the Southern Illinoisan last week that we are finally seeing movement — "I think the project is going to be getting off the ground very shortly." He wasn't kidding.

Brad Holland revealed the selection of Ryan Companies as a partner of some sort last week. Now Ryan Companies is working on a new site plan for the STAR Bonds District.

Interestingly, it's going to cover at least some of the adjoining lands not included currently in the district. Part of that may just deal with roads and other infrastructure issues, but still, it should offer some clues when it's finished shortly.

This plan will replace the fuzzy temporary plan shown in Millennium Development's brochure on the Holland Construction website.

Separate from the Boulder Creek development, but greatly influenced by its potential, I was told this morning about what may be the first property sale near the new Morgan Avenue interchange. There's no word yet on what will be built on the tract. Meanwhile there's solid movement on two other still-unannounced developments on the west side of the interstate.

Engineering Firm Hired for Boulder Creek

There's movement in the direction of Boulder Creek on The Hill, the STAR bonds development on Marion's northwest side.

The Southern Illinoisan editorialized yesterday calling for readers to continue supporting the destination development.

The editorial didn't provide any new details, not surprising since no reporter has actually talked with the developers on the record for any of the stories over the past week. All have simply reworded the news releases sent to them.

I agree with the overall tone for the editorial. There's too much at stake to start getting hypercritical. Patience people, patience, should have been the headline.

One intriguing bit: "Holland also announced the development will be named Boulder Creek at The Hill, a name so specific it must be linked to an investor's requirement."

I don't know if that is the case or just speculation. The Hill part of the name obviously goes along with the earlier development by that name. The STAR Bonds district is mostly the land that was formally part of The Hill.

In last week's news release Brad Holland tied the name "Boulder Creek" to the region's many outdoor attractions, but let's face it, it's a perfect home for a Cabela's or Bass Pro Shop, not to mention a Great Wolf Lodge, all of which have been mentioned as potential major anchors for the development. The first two would make up one of the "destination users" required for the the district (there's no way of expecting both of those to locate in the same development). The third would more than meet the requirements for the "destination hotel" requirement.

This afternoon the Southern posted details from the latest news release from the developers at Millennium Development LLC. They've hired SCI Engineering, out of O'Fallon, Ill., to do "due diligence research" on the property in the STAR Bonds district.

SCI Engineering started out Soil Consulting, Inc., back in 1978. It has three offices in the St. Louis region, plus a fourth in Rolla, Mo., and employs 150.

The firm will have their work cut out for them. The area set aside for the STAR Bonds District is riddled with former coal mines, both underground and strip mines. Not even the state has definite knowledge of what mines existed, particularly in the northern part of the district closer to Longstreet Road.

Here's a bit more from the company website:
From its beginning, the company has provided geotechnical and construction services to architect and engineering design professionals. Over the past 33 years, capabilities have been added in environmental, natural resources, and cultural resources to provide a full suite of consulting services, to better meet the needs of our clients.

The staff prides itself on the ability to provide consulting services with quality, professionalism, and responsiveness to clients during the development, design, and construction phases of projects. The company’s success is attributed to our team of highly skilled and experienced staff that includes geotechnical engineers, geologists, archaeologists, earth scientists, construction experts, and engineering technicians. The ability to develop innovative and cost-effective design solutions is not only a result of the diversity and experience of our staff, but also the commitment between different service groups to work as a team to provide our clients with quality consulting services.

Butler Optimistic About STAR Bonds Project

Marion Mayor Robert Butler likes the new name — Boulder Creek at The Hill — announced yesterday for the STAR bonds district.

In an interview yesterday with Stephen Rickerl of the Southern Illinoisan he expressed optimism at the project. Previously both he and state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, had mildly, but publicly, grumbled at the delays.

"I think that finally we see movement taking place," he told the Southern. "I think the project is going to be getting off the ground very shortly."

Despite the understandable slowness in developing the project due to the overall economic conditions, both the city and the state have continued to move forward on road construction projects. In the state's case they've actually accelerated some projects in Marion along Route 13 and the interchanges at Interstate 57.

The massive new widening of Carbon Street north of Route 13 has begun and drivers can already get a glimpse of what it will be like to pull up to the future development on Morgan Avenue.

Meanwhile the city and state are moving forward on plans to add another overpass on Morgan to give motorists four lanes over the interstate and five lanes on Morgan back east to Carbon.
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