Wednesday, June 22, 2016

$11.17 Million in Commercial Projects Underway in Marion

Well over $11 million in commercial projects have been permitted or broken ground this spring on Marion's west side along all three exits.

While city officials mentioned Culver's was looking at Marion last month, owners of the new restaurant took out a building permit on June 1 for their new 4,473 sq. ft. restaurant at 2607 Blue Heron Drive, immediately east of the IHOP now under construction. It's valued at $1,450,000. However as Wednesday they had not filed a deed for the lot.

Culver's becomes the fourth restaurant under construction (or at least about to be) in Marion.

The new IHOP up on The Hill at 2607 The Hill Ave. comes in at $1,116,000. They took out their building permit on March 10.

Around the corner at 1309 Halfway Road just north of Krispy Kreme, Kidds Restaurants Inc.has begun construction of a new Jimmy John's. That project is just $200,000. They've had their permit since Feb. 5.

Down the road Marion's third Dairy Queen at 1300 Redco Rd. next to Marion Toyota is finally enclosed. This $850,000 building was permitted Feb. 3. 

The restaurants are joined by two new convenience stores and a large car wash.

The city's fourth Huck's convenience store at 2700 W. Main St. near Exit 53 is going up quickly. Carmi-based Martin & Bayley took out a building permit the new $1,050,000 store at the corner of Halfway and Main on April 11.

Meyer Oil Co. which has recently expanded into deep Southern Illinois with locations in Harrisburg and Herrin took out a building permit on May 25 for a new Mach 1 convenience store at 2603 The Hill Ave. which is on the south side of the former Morgan Avenue backed up to the old shuttered Executive Inn. That one is a $2.8 million project.

The largest project this spring has been NLB Properties's new Finishline Carwash which will take the place of Ryan's Steakhouse. The old building is down and the new one going up is a $3.7 million project.

Smaller projects in the older sections of town include a $300,000 expansion to Erica's Doggie Stylez at 1012 W. Main St. for pet boarding and training and a $150,000 building at 505 E. College St. northeast of Family Video for a new fitness center.

According to the Southern Illinoisan, the city is looking at even more development particularly in the area of The Hill which would include additional restaurants (Buffalo Wild Wings is what's been mentioned the most), office and retail space as well as a $10 million hotel. In total $27 million in private investment is expected in a new TIF district being created south of The Hill Ave.

Other than the Mach 1 station most of those projects have not been identified and could be spread out over the next three years.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Construction Begins on New Huck's in Marion

Martin & Bayley has broken ground for a new Huck's Convenience Store at the site of the old Poe Skating Rink at 2700 W. Main St. at the intersection of Main and Halfway Road.

The City of Marion issued their building permit on April 11 for a $1.05 million building. The Carmi-based company which has operated in Marion since at the mid 1970s purchased the property a year ago on May 28, 2015, for $375,000.

This will be the company's fourth store operating in Marion, and it's sixth location used in town.

The firm, named for the late founding partners, Bob Martin and Frank Bayley, dates to 1960 when they began operating supermarkets in small communities across Southern Illinois and eventually expanding into Kentucky and Tennessee. They opened the first Huck's convenience store in Grayville, Illinois, in 1974. Since 2001 the company has been employee owned.

Other than Huck's it was a slow month for building permits in the city. The other major projects include Brokton Webb's $340,000 4-plex at 909 E. Carter St. and Lee Webb's $250,000 project for storage units at 700 N. Main St. The remaining projects are for a double-wide mobile home and two garages.

Overall, the city approved permits totaling $1.783 million in the month of April.

It looks another development will be heading to that area, J. E. Mayer LLC, the corporate owner of the land where Marion Toyota Auto Body operates on Cree Drive, just purchased the vacant Lot 8 immediately to their west this Tuesday, May 3. They paid approximately $3/square foot, or $103,629 for the .79 acre lot on the northeast corner of Cree Drive and Halfway Road.

That's the same price per square foot that Jellen Enterprises paid for slightly larger Lot 15 last Aug. 15, for the new Huddle House restaurant.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Plans to Reopen State Museum Ignore Region

The director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources says the Illinois State Museum could reopen in a matter of weeks if lawmakers approve Gov. Bruce Rauner's amendatory veto of Senate Bill 317 sent to the governor last December. The General Assembly passed the legislation requiring the governor to reopen and operate the museum and its branch sites at Dickson Mounds, Freeport, Rend Lake and Chicago.

The amendatory veto replaced the list of branch sites to reopen with the language, "branch sites determined by the Department of Natural Resources in collaboration with local units of government and other public and private entities."

That would mean the addition sites Southern Illinois Art & Artisans Center at Rend Lake wouldn't automatically reopen, just the Springfield one. Apparently it would require some local partnerships to guarantee the Southern Illinois facility's future.

Rauner also added a sentence that authorizes DNR and the Board of the Illinois State Museum to "solicit the assistance of the Illinois State Museum Society to fundraise non-State resources for the museum and to provide operational assistance to the museum."

Currently the non-profit group just operates the bookstore and handles a few research issues. This would be a major change for the entity, but one that has been needed for some time.

The governor's third change would deal with admission fees. The legislation authorized the department to charge a fee, but one set by administrative rule, a time-consuming process. Rauner's change would allow the agency director to not only set the fee, but also allow different fees for different classes of visitors, such as a cheaper rate for students or groups.

DNR Director Wayne Rosenthal spoke to reporters about the change today.
Rosenthal said no decision has been made about the size of the admission fees, but Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said he thought a fee of $5 for adults was reasonable. Rosenthal said that would put Illinois in line with surrounding states that charge admission fees to their state museums.

Rosenthal also said that going forward, the museum would work in partnership with private organizations to raise addition funds for the museum. He said there is no target amount for how much must be raised between the admission fees and private donations.

The museum and related facilities around the state closed in September because of the state’s budget crunch. However, unionized state employees there have remained on the job because of a pending lawsuit in St. Clair County challenging layoffs of state workers.

As part of the agreement to reopen the museum, Rosenthal said facilities in Chicago and Rend Lake would close — saving the state about $1 million.

Apparently there's been no progress about finding partnerships in Southern Illinois. That's a shame. It's time for the Rend Lake Conservancy District, DNR and Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mount Vernon to step up to the plate.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Movie Shot in Southern Illinois Releases Trailer

Dig Two Graves, the independent film shot in Southern Illinois in 2013, finally released its first trailer Sunday. The movie is a Gothic thriller with a supernatural bent.

A crew filmed at a number of scenic locations across the region including Ferne Clyffe State Park, Mermet Springs and the Tunnel Hill State Trail. The downtowns of Marion and Vienna doubled for the fictional setting of Egypt, Illinois.

Other historic sites utilized included the old school in Grand Chain, "Shot" Winchester's second tavern down at Olmstead, Civil War Era Congressman A. J. Kuykendall's antebellum house in Vienna, as well as Prohibition Era Congressman E. E. Denison's house, Goddard Chapel and the Williamson County Jail Museum, all in Marion.

The film is directed by Hunter Adams and produced by P.J. Fishwick and Claire Connelly.

Ted Levine, Samantha Isler and Danny Goldring star in the movie.




DIG TWO GRAVES trailer
from Hunter McLean Adams on Vimeo.

Monday, August 24, 2015

City of West Frankfort to Buy Outlet Mall

West Frankfort city officials have contracted to purchase the Factory Outlet Store of America mall on the city's west side from its California-based owner.

A deal was signed last week according to reporting by the new Frankfort American, a twice-weekly newspaper sponsored by Morthland College that's only in its fifth issue.

The city has 60 days to review the building and terms before closing on the deal, details of which have not been released. Officials including Mayor Tom Jordan has spent the last two months negotiating the deal for the 25-year-old mall.

Colliers International has been marketing the outlet mall with a sales price of $2,050,000. The building has 91,063 sq. ft. of leasable area which gives it an asking price of $22.51/sq. ft.

The mall is about two-thirds rented and anchored by VF Outlet.

The paper reports that the city hopes to keep the existing retail stores inside and add other retailers or business that wouldn't interfere with retail. Following the success of their industrial incubator building they hope to continue that model to add more retail development both inside the mall as well as development of the entire 20-acre tract will the mall sits.

The mall is owned by DeSantis Properties of Fresno, California, which did not respond to calls by the paper.

Ironically and historically, there's a tie between the DeSantis name (but certainly not the company in this case) and the city. In 1920, a seriously deranged Sicilian named Settimi DeSantis and another man killed two teen boys in some woods south of Royalton, across the county line in Williamson County.

The killings, believed by the public to have been the work of the Black Hand, led to the West Frankfort Race Riot which targeted Italians living in the city. It took the National Guard to restore order. Williamson County prosecuted both men for murder. DeSantis' accomplice hung himself during the trial in the county jail (now the Williamson County Jail Museum). The jury found DeSantis guilty and hung him on a vacant lot on the east side of the square behind what's now John Brown's on the Square.

Hat tip to Jeff Webb, a former staffer of the old West Frankfort Daily American and a photographer with the new paper. He stopped by to talk to me yesterday at my Giant City Lodge book signing and told me about the story and the publication.

He also pointed me toward the new Main Street Baking Co. & Mercantile at 328 E. Main St. in West Frankfort. Of this afternoon it's now carrying books published and distributed by IllinoisHistory.com.

Besides rolling in the dough with loaves of fresh bread and sandwiches they offer everything your sweet tooth desires, except donuts. For that they will point you down the street.

That's Owner Darla Dawson on the right and her manager, Esther Willis, on the left. The Benton Evening News had a nice profile piece on Darla earlier this summer.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Huddle House Developer Files Deed

Although Robert Jellen, developer of Marion's new Huddle House, took out a building permit two months ago on June 19, the deed for land nestled among Comfort Suites, Quality Inn and and Best Western wasn't filed until last week on Aug. 12.

The county clerk and recorder's website shows a sales price of $124,407.00 for Lot 15 of Cree Commercial Subdivision. That comes to $3/sq. ft. for the .95 acre tract at the corner of Comfort Drive and Henry Drive.

The eatery will be located on the second lot to the north of 20s Hideout Steakhouse and Bar.

For more on the restaurant check out the earlier blog post, "Huddle House headed for Marion."

Last of Herrin Massacre Bus Tours Takes Off Saturday


If you ever wanted to learn more about the Herrin Massacre now is the time. Our last tour of the summer will be Saturday starting at 9 a.m. with the bus leaving from the Williamson County Jail Museum at 105 S. Van Buren St. in Marion.

S.I. Treasure Tours conducts the tours and yours truly, Jon Musgrave of IllinoisHistory.com and the Southern Illinois Tourism News blog, serves as the guide. The tour includes visits to the jail museum, Station Carbondale railroad museum and the Herrin City Cemetery, as well as lunch at an area historic site.

Go to www.TreasureToursSI.com to reserve your seats now.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Huddle House headed for Marion

Just when I was saying to myself how West Main Street in Marion didn't have many restaurants, compared to other major streets in the city like Court Street, somebody went and done something about it.

Now this was back in February when I first heard the news, but it's official now. Marion is slated for a new Huddle House at 305 Comfort Drive off of West Main Street. Owner Robert Jellen took out a city building permit June 19, though no deed has been filed yet. It will be two lots north of the 20s Hideout and across the street from the new Sunshine Gardens assisted living facility that will be opening soon.

The permit gives a construction value of $850,000, which is actually a bit less than the new Krispy Kreme franchise which broke ground in June as well. The June 4 permit for that project showed it valued at $900,000.

Back in February the developer of the new Huddle House had been looking at the former Shell service station location in between 7th Street and Interstate 57 on the north side of West Main. The station, which was torn down last year, operated independently as Fuel Mart. Since then I'd heard he'd changed his attention to the west side of the interstate.

If you're wondering just what is a Huddle House, you're in for a treat if you've not dined at the one in Paducah, or the fairly new one in Greenville, Illinois, on your way to Springfield. According to the frequently asked questions on its franchising site, a "Huddle House is a Southern-style dining experience and community gathering spot that has been serving comfort food at a great value for five decades. At Huddle House, we serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and our motto is 'Any Meal. Any Time.'"

It's basically a modern, better decorated Waffle House, and the food is good - at least the one in Greenville is.

The restaurant is believed to be going on Lot 15 of Cree Commercial Subdivision, which contains .95 acres, slightly larger than the narrow .74-acre gas station lot on the other side of the interstate. The typical freestanding Huddle House restaurant is usually fairly narrow itself, usually "2,200 square feet on a lot between 25,000 and 30,000."

The company recommends a minimum traffic count of 12,000 vehicles a day. West Main Street offers 15,100 in front of the site and 25,900 cars pass over Main Street everyday on Interstate 57, according to the state's traffic count, which shows at least two-year data from 2013. They also suggest an area with at least 12,000 population within five miles, which Marion surpasses.

Huddle House celebrated its 50th anniversary last year with 34 new restaurants opening, 10 of which were new construction like the Marion one.

Typically open 24-hours, Huddle House serves breakfast, lunch and dinner all day. The menu offers a mix of Southern inspired comfort food, including signature Big House breakfasts, crispy hash browns, creamy grits, golden waffles and fluffy omelets, all made to order. Other favorites include Big Bold Burgers, Big House sandwich platters, country fried steak with green beans and marinated grilled chicken with sweet potato fries.

The core values on which Huddle House was founded – serving quality food in a warm, friendly environment that brings the community together – remain intact today.

If the new restaurant operates 24 hours a day, it would join the interstate McDonalds and Steak 'n Shake as the only 24/7 eateries in town.

Huddle House isn't the only new development heading for West Main Street and Halfway. More on that tomorrow or so.