Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Signs That the Recovery Is Here (or at least near)

Not only did the Great Recession (extended needlessly by Washington politicians clueless to past history) kill off Marion's Circuit City distribution facility and the all-but-announced Target distribution center on the east side, but it also put a stop to some smaller projects near the Interstate.

For the last couple of weeks though signs, like the spring flowers, are popping up that these long-delayed, or at least long-contemplated projects are about to bloom.

To be honest, both of these as of yesterday still haven't taken out building permits with the city, but site work is progressing.

At the corner of Route 13 and Halfway Road, owners of the old Amoco station across the street from the truck stop, had all but the north end of the building down yesterday. This was the first gas station west of the interstate built in the mid 1960s.

Originally built as a service station with a garage, over the years different owners have redesigned it as a convenience store, but it's just been too small and too inefficient a design. Between the truck stop on one side and the FiveStar Food Mart across the highway that opened in 2007, it was only a matter of time. Now the word in some of the neighboring businesses is that it's a new station.

Ron Kruep of Mount Vernon owns the Ron's One-Stop chain of stations in the region. He's never hesitated to close down, sell off, or just completely rebuild from scratch when needed. He already has the One-Stop on the east side of the interstate at Route 13 and Carbon.

Up Halfway Road will be an even bigger development just east of MidCountry Bank on Blue Heron Drive. They cut an entrance in the retaining wall on Morgan a few months ago, and for the last couple of weeks there's been a new sign. Marion, it appears, will be getting a new Holiday Inn Express.

Based on past interviews with the owner Charlie Brown who also has the new award-winning Holiday Inn at Carbondale, the Marion facility will be 101 rooms. (At least that's what I remember though to be honest I can't find my notes right now).

Unlike the Carbondale facility it will not have a restaurant attached to the property. However, if you check out the map for The Hill, there is an outlot between the new hotel and Stadium Drive that could become home to (say, ahem, an Olive Gardens possibly?) That's just speculation based on a long-running rumor. I've also heard of another location for the long-sought eatery on the west side, though with the Millennium Development all bets are off as to where such a restaurant might locate. Over the years Olive Gardens rumors have popped up almost as much as the Busch Gardens one.

Right now Williamson County has about 1245 rooms available with 1108 inside the Marion city limits. The new hotel would place Marion about at the same level as Mount Vernon in terms of rooms along the interstate. Even with 1209 rooms, it would still be less than half of what Paducah supports.

The proposed destination hotel in the Millennium Development project would bring another 300 to 450 rooms based on what the smaller Great Wolf Lodge inns offer. (A GWL hasn't been confirmed, but just given as an example by the developers of what they would like to attract.)

Brown's company has owned the land for the new Holiday Inn since at least 2007, but has not moved forward due to the credit crunch caused by the recession. Though it's never been formally announced, the project was one of three hotels looking at building in Marion around 2006-2007.

Jim Zeller went ahead and got the Country Inn and Suites up and running before the recession hit. A third developer bought the land behind Sao's Asian Bistro but has never developed it.

Meanwhile the new Speakeasy Liquors now under construction on Halfway Road has the roof. According to their Facebook page they will be holding a job fair later this month, but as of tonight have not set a date.

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