Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Today's First Deadline for Big Marion Development

Developers are still waiting for Gov. Pat Quinn's signature on Senate Bill 2093, but their first deadline is in less than 8 hours.

Before midnight tonight, Bruce Holland and his development team must "own or have control of, through purchase agreements, option contracts, or other means, not less than 50% of the acreage within the STAR bond district," according to the legislation.

Most of the land being targeted is already owned by Marion Heights LLC, developers of The Hill. In past statements Holland has described his project as 300 to 350 acres, but the bill allows room for expansion, allowing from 250 to 500 acres to be included.

Ironically, this clause is also found in State Sen. John O. Jones' last minute amendment to SB 2881, his version of the STAR Bonds bill which would have allowed for the creation of a second STAR bonds district in Jefferson County at Mount Vernon's new Exit 94 on Interstate 57.

Neither Jones nor King City Mayor Mary Jane Chesney ever identified a developer interested in the parcel, which makes it unlikely the city could have found a way around this requirement.

During the hearing at the Senate's Labor Committee last Thursday, Chesney specifically stated her city was not interested in the tourism component of the bill. Despite her statement the legislation stipulates tourism as one of the key purposes for creating such districts.
It is further found and declared to be the policy of the State, in the interest of promoting the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of all the people of the State, to provide incentives to create new job opportunities and to promote major tourism, entertainment, retail, and related destination projects within the State.

There would have been another hiccup for Mount Vernon as well. In order to apply for the creation of a STAR Bonds district the master developer has to show a plan to secure not only a destination user, but an entertainment user as well.

The "destination user" is a major retailer with a building of at least 150,000 square feet, no other store within 70 miles and attract at least 30 percent of customers from more than 75 miles away, or at least out of state.

The "entertainment user" is more interesting. The short definition is theme park, but here's the long version as well:

"Entertainment user" means an owner, operator, licensee, a co-developer, subdeveloper, or tenant that operates a business within a STAR bond district that has a primary use of providing a venue for entertainment attractions, rides, or other activities oriented toward the entertainment and amusement of its patrons, occupies at least 20 acres of land in the STAR bond district, and makes an initial capital investment, including project costs and other direct and indirect costs, of not less than $25,000,000 for that venue.

The biggest hurdle for a Mount Vernon STAR Bonds district would have been the area itself. In order to qualify for a STAR Bonds, it has to be blighted. As Marion found out a quarter century ago in the Mall Wars, just because a parcel of land is undeveloped it does not mean it's blighted, especially when it's at a new interstate interchange.

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