Land Deals Signal New Restaurants for Marion

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Now that Marion has two hotels under construction — a new Holiday Inn Express and a Comfort Inn — expect new restaurants to quickly follow.

Wolohan Enterprises sold 1.65 acres Monday to Logan’s Roadhouse. The land lays along Halfway Road opposite America’s Best Inns. Though not publicly confirmed, area construction sources indicate bids have already been submitted for the new restaurant.

The land sale is the second piece of the old Wolohan Lumber Co. property sold since they closed the store and tore down the building six years ago. They sold the first parcel five years ago to Newcomb Oil Co. for the FiveStar Food Mart convenience store that opened Dec. 6, 2007.

Wolohan Capital Strategies tried to sell the rest of the land on their own, but the recession kept buyers away. Eventually they listed the remaining 10.56 acres with Dave Thompson Realty on April 23, 2009 for $9.33 a sq. ft. for the entire tract. Buyers wanting a smaller piece could pay $15 a sq. ft. for a 1.5 acre corner.

That might have been a bargain as the latest sale (Lot 1) brought that price and the company re-listed the remaining property in three other lots, all priced at $15 a sq. ft. as well.

Now, a second buyer wants Lot 2 just to the north on Halfway Road. This 1.5 acre tract sits opposite Country Inn & Suites and a potential sale is listed as “pending” in the multiple listing service of the Egyptian Board of Realtors. Thompson confirmed the buyer as another restaurant.

Contrary to rumors the land won’t be the future home of a relocated and enlarged existing Marion restaurant known for its seafood. Instead, think of it as a blast from Marion’s past making a return to the Hub of the Universe.

Wolohan’s Lot 3 covers 4.65 acres on the south side of Morgan Avenue opposite MidCountry Bank and the new Holiday Inn Express. Halfway Road bounds it on the west and a proposed new access road, Hill View Way, on the east. Lot 4’s 2.53 acres lay on the south side of Morgan Avenue with Hill View Way on the west and south and AmerenCIPS’ substation on the east.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is paying for the street which will allow access to the former Village Green property next to the interstate. IDOT bought the access rights from that property to Morgan Avenue for the new expanded overpass expected to be let for bids later this year. According to the listing for Lot 4, construction on the street should be finished later in the summer.

IDOT included funding for the new street in the larger I-57/Rt. 13 interchange project which will start April 2.

Two other restaurants are known to be considering sites below The Hill though no deal appears to have been consummated. Across the highway on the south side of Route 13, three existing restaurants have either renovated, updated or have been replaced. McDonald’s held its grand-reopening at the beginning of the month for its remodeled facility. The truck stop reopened at a Pilot Travel Center last December with a new Subway and farther west, Taco Bell has also underwent a facelift.

East of the interstate look for KFC to be the next one building with plans already submitted to the city for a new restaurant located in what’s now their east parking lot.

For more information on Marion's real estate market, or assistance in buying and selling real estate in the region, contact the author of this blog, Jon Musgrave, a Realtor with Paul Wilson Realty LLC of Marion, Illinois.

Carterville Eyes New June Festival

The Carterville Heritage & Preservation Commission wants a new summer festival according to the Southern Illinoisan online.

The new festival is scheduled for the weekend of June 1-2. A planning meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall
Festival volunteers are needed and a kick-off meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday in city hall, 101 S. Division St. Some of the events being planned include a “Battle of the Bands” contest, a washer tournament, kids races and a flower/art show, [Carterville Consultant Jennifer] Spence said.

Money raised from the two-day event will go to the Carterville Heritage & Preservation Foundation. Local and civic organizations and churches have a fund-raising opportunity through vendor booth offerings, Spence said.

Illinois Tourism Changes PR Firms

After a two-decade long relationship the Illinois Office of Tourism is leaving Edelman and going with Fleishman-Hillard in a $14 million multi-year tourism PR contract. PR Week broke the story this morning.

Elks Eye Harrisburg For Tourism Development

In one of the bright bits of news out of Harrisburg since the Leap Day Tornado struck killing seven, the Harrisburg Elks recently briefed the Saline County Tourism Board on plans for a new family-oriented resort on the city's east side.

Called Elkside, the five-fold plan will be located on 11 acres at 220 S. Missouri St. that last housed the Lakeside Bar & Grill.
The Harrisburg Elks Lodge 1058 has bought the old Lakeside Bar and Grill between Sam Jones Lake and Missouri Street in Harrisburg with plans to turn it into the new lodge hall. Flooding in the spring of 2011 damaged the existing building and the Elks have plans to build a new 8,400 square foot lodge that can be rented to the public as a banquet hall.

In order to help finance such a building the lodge has plans to create five new businesses on the 11-acre property. Those include a swimming beach on the lake members intend to have open by Memorial Day, fishing in the lake, a concessionaire to take money and sell refreshments, a pavilion with fireplace using the old Lakeside Building structure that may be rented for events and a campground of 20 sites with most being able to support RVs.
The only problem right now is financing.
"Honestly, we don't have the wherewithal at this point to continue with actually putting electrical into the ground because we've got all these other things going on. If we can come up with a grant we can match I believe our trustees and membership would quickly jump on the chance at developing that," [Elks member John] Gardner said.

The tourism board suggested they talk to the Southeastern Illinois Planning and Development Commission.

They should also check out state's Tourism Attraction Development Program grants through DCEO. As of last month only one grant had been awarded in this program, but they were still taking applications with the assumption that funds would be released later this fiscal year which ends June 30.

If the Elks pay property taxes on this project, and I'm not sure at this point, then they and the city should look at the possibility of tax increment financing. The flooded and shuttered bar and grill would certainly qualify as blighted. A number of aspects of this project would qualify for TIF reimbursements.

In a separate project state officials announced $1 million to raise Missouri Street above the 100-year flood plain to allow better access to Harrisburg Medical Center. The street runs from Route 13 south to the hill at Gaskins City where the hospital sits. However the street for the most part is located just outside the levee. Construction is expected to start as early as August and finish by the Spring of 2013.

Carbondale Times Highlights Issues in CCTB

Geoffrey Ritter at the Carbondale Times may be one of the best investigative reporters in Southern Illinois right now. A long story a few years ago in the Herrin Independent about the issues behind Herrinfesta finally explained to me the issues facing the festival. Now, he's digging into the Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau.

For those not knowing what was happening behind the scenes, this reveals it.

I'd seen where the the mayor and city council had expressed concerns in the Southern Illinoisan, and for the first time there were cracks in the normal favorable coverage of the bureau. In the end, the city cut $50,000 worth of funding this year.

Ritter digged deeper and reports on the nepotism issues long known to those in the tourism world.
The Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau director’s practice of steering jobs and taxpayer funding to her daughter stretches back years, a continuing investigation by the Times has revealed, and totals at the very least in the tens of thousands of dollars.
In addition, the practice of familial patronage has extended to the very center of major initiatives undertaken over the past decade by CCTB Executive Director Debbie Moore, among them the establishment of a tourism curriculum at John A. Logan College and the formation of a culinary tourism project initially operated out of SIU.
The rest of the article can be found here. The story builds on their earlier coverage in February.

Eight seats on the tourism board are up as of April 30. The Times' headline (print edition only) indicated the mayor planned to name new people.
City Council Member Jane Adams was very critical of agency at public meetings in February as D. W. Norris reported in the Southern.

"A number of people tell me they have contacted CCTB and never get called back," Adams said.

Adams also wondered why CCTB's budget was not more in depth as far as expenses, at one point saying, "I guess I just don't understand your budget."

...Adams was also critical of CCTB's website, which has a low number of visits, non-functioning tools and a calendar with few events listed.

"In terms of tourism websites ... it's an embarrassment," Adams said.
 Adams had more on her blog earlier this month.
The issue of funding the Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau (CCTB) has brought me more mail and phone calls than any other issue I have written about. Almost all of these constituents called on Council to defund the agency, and many have detailed complaints about how the Bureau has been run. I have, frankly, been surprised by the depth of feeling this issue has aroused.
 For once I won't comment further.

State Taking Reservations for Campsites, Shelters

 From the Illinois Department of Natural Resources:
SPRINGFIELD, IL – With the busy spring and summer camping seasons approaching, Illinois residents and visitors can make reservations now for campsites, cabins, group campsites and shelters at many Illinois state parks by using the online Reserve America reservation system at

“For a weekend getaway or an extended stay at a beautiful Illinois campground, the online reservation system is the most convenient way for visitors to our state parks, fish and wildlife and state recreation areas to ensure their campsite is waiting for them when they arrive,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller.

Reserving campsites and shelters through Reserve America’s website allows users to receive instant confirmation of their reservations at IDNR sites.  The IDNR no longer accepts camping and shelter reservations through the mail or over the phone.

The online reservation system for regular campsites and group campsites requires a $5 non-refundable reservation fee and payment of the full camping and utility fees at the time the reservation is made. MasterCard and Visa may be used to make those reservations. Camping fee information for IDNR sites is available at this link through the IDNR website.

Payment of the entire camping and utility fee amount will guarantee that the reservation will be held for the entire length of the stay. Shelter reservation fees are $25.

Campsites can be reserved for a maximum of 14 nights per 30-day period and reservations must be made at least seven days (three days at some facilities) before the campsite is needed. Reservations for some holiday weekends may require a two- or three-night minimum stay reservation, depending on the facility.

Campsite reservations through the online system are available at 67 of Illinois’ state parks and other sites managed by the IDNR.  Shelter reservations are available at 51 sites.  Campsites that are not subject to reservation at IDNR sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The IDNR is also recruiting campground hosts for some sites.  For more information on the campground host program, phone 217/785-8129 or use this link.
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