Tuesday, March 20, 2012

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.

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