Kokopelli wasn't the only Marion landmark to change hands this week. Less than 24 hours after the Green Grass Group LLC closed the deal on the region's premiere golf course, a new owner took over the Illinois Centre Mall next door.
Although the new owner(s) are still not publicly identified, the old management team in the mall office is already out. Two meetings are set for next Wednesday, one between the new owner(s) and remaining staff, and a second with the mall tenants.
The challenge for new owners will be how to turn around the struggling mall that's now in its 19th year of operation with major new competition on the way.
Officials with the Edward J. DeBartolo Corp., and Antonia Investments, Inc., announced the development of the Illinois Centre Mall in 1989. Construction started the next spring with steel work underway by the fall of 1990. The mall opened the following year in early October 1991.
The mall was to the 750,000 square-foot centerpiece of a 260-acre development. However, a fifth anchor store planned for the front of the mall at what's now the center entrance never materialized.
For the last two decades the Illinois Centre Mall has both competed with, and mutually complimented the older University Mall down the highway in Carbondale.
The University Mall began with a stand-alone JCPenney store in 1971 with the first phase of the mall built three years later to the west with a new Sears store anchoring the other end. Later a second wing to the south led to a third anchor store, Meis (later Elder-Beerman).
During the development of the Illinois Centre Mall, developers added another wing to the east of JCPenney with an 91,000 square foot Famous-Barr and an 80,000 square-foot Venture store. Overall, the $35 million project added 266,000 square feet of retail increasing the total size of the mall to 690,162 square feet.
But what's on the way could more than double the combined size of both malls. The new Millennium Development proposed for Marion would greatly expand "The Hill" with one or two major "destination users", or retailers of least 150,000 square feet each.
The Cabela's store near Kansas City, Kansas, is part of a development cited by the Marion developers as an example of what they want. That store offers 180,000 square feet of shopping. The chain's largest store is 250,000 square feet. That said, the company is now generally planning 80,000 to 125,000 square-foot stores according to their corporate website.
Another possible anchor mentioned for Glen Carbon was a Nebraska Furniture Mart. The Southern Illinoisan described the company as building a 1 million square feet store in the Kansas City STAR bonds development. Actually, the store is just (yeah, just) 420,000 square feet. The remaining 600,000+ square feet is a distribution center.
In addition to the two destination user anchors the legislation allows up to another 900,000 square feet of additional retail to be built within the STAR Bonds district. At least half of that will be needed to entice a Cabela's, as they want to anchor growing retail developments (discounters and franchise stores don't count).