Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Investors Target Area for Tourism Projects

Hardin County
Two cabins at Timber Ridge Outpost and Cabins opened Memorial Day weekend just off of Karbers Ridge Road a couple of miles away from Garden of the Gods.

Timber Ridge also opened one of their tree houses last week and a larger one now under construction should be finished by Sept. 1.

Elizabeth Canfarelli, one of the owners tells more about the idea for the tree houses.

A video gaming parlor is being planned for the former Fox Cleaners location at the north end of Parker Plaza, according to shopping center's property manager. No application with the state has been filed yet. At least four other establishments have applied for video gaming licenses with the Illinois Gaming Board.

Logan's Roadhouse is wrapping up construction on Halfway Road around the road from a new Panera Bread and another restaurant is looking at the land immediately north of them. The Marion location will be the fourth in Illinois for Logan's.

Mr. Koolz Frozen Yogurt is coming to the former Stevens building on Williamson County Parkway across from Walmart and next door to Black Diamond Harley-Davidson. Rent One has purchased the building and is in the process of remodeling it.

Williamson County Commissioner Brent Gentry is opening the new establishment. According to the store's Facebook page, construction is under way and plans are to open next month in August.

The Southern Illinoisan reported Monday that Martin Schaldemose, owner of the Old Train Depot is planning a major renovation of the historic structure in the 1700 block of West Walnut Street.

The owner said he hoped to begin major reconstruction in two months. He plans to knock out a southwest wall to make space for a larger kitchen. He also said he’s going to build an addition on the west side of the building to increase seating.

He would like to have a café with pastry and fine coffees during the day and transform the space into a “classy and cozy” restaurant with hints of French decorating at night.

A separate building south of the depot would be converted into an ice cream stand and bakery.

Panera Bread Co. Breaks Ground in Marion

Panera Bread broke ground last week next door to Drury Inn. They've been reportedly looking at the area in detail for the last few months, but have been viewing Marion as a possible expansion site for years.

Company spokesperson Kelli Nicholson told Southern Illinois Tourism News today that they hope to open by the Christmas shopping season.

"We are still in process of nailing down a grand opening date, but it’s looking like it will open mid to late November 2012," Nicholson said. "We have been looking for the perfect opportunity in Marion for several years, and now we feel we have a great location to serve the Marion community."

"We have a successful café located in Carbondale, IL that has a lot of customers that travel from Marion to Carbondale to eat at Panera several times per week, so we’re hoping we’ll be well received in Marion! The new café will have a nice patio with plenty of parking. Additionally, we offer a great catering service, where we offer a special menu for larger groups and delivery is available."

The building permit shows an estimated cost of $801,000 for the new restaurant's construction.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Movement Made in Marion STAR Bonds

Since the two-year anniversary of Gov. Pat Quinn's signing of the STAR Bonds legislation for Marion in June, more details are slowly coming out about two of three key components about the project.

I reported in The Daily Register of Harrisburg on July 10, "Quietly, progress made in STAR Bonds deal" with both Marion Mayor Bob Butler and state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, confirming a high-level meeting at Rent One Park between local officials, Holland officials and developers.

Both guarded their comments due to a two-page confidentiality agreement they signed at the meeting, but both were definitely brighter and more upbeat than their comments made a year ago.

Now, there's "two principals showing great interest," according to Marion Mayor Bob Butler. "Everything's coming along as well as could be expected at this point."

A few days later Chad Holland spoke to the Southern Illinoisan and WSIL-TV with additional information. He didn't name names, but at least identified what categories the "two principals" would fill in the development.

As the television station reported July 17:

"Right now we're working with a destination user and a destination hotel, which is a water park hotel," said Chad Holland of Holland Construction, lead developer on the project.

The groups are still negotiating a deal, but Holland said they're serious about coming.

"They've been to Marion a couple of times. They're doing economic impact studies, they're doing site plans. I talked to the destination user on Wednesday last week, and they're deciding what size store they want to build."

To put that in context, those would be something along the lines of a Great Wolf Lodge for the hotel and a Cabela's or Bass Pro Shop for the destination user. I have no idea if those are the companies involved, but those have been the names bandied about two years ago when the Hollands were still giving examples.

The STAR Bonds legislation set a requirement of at least one (and no more than two) destination user(s) or major retailers, and one entertainment user (theme park or other major tourist destination driver) in order for the district to be activated. The destination hotel was something added to the Marion legislation that wasn't in the Glen Carbon version of the bill. It's not required to kick-start the project, but its tourist draw makes it an indirect requirement since the legislation allows for a smaller entertainment user than the early versions of the legislation required.

The whole idea behind the STAR Bonds is that it only makes sense for the state to subsidize the associated retail development if the shoppers are mostly from surrounding states and not simply cannibalizing existing in-state stores. Thus the need for the tourist attractions.

Holland told the Southern Illinoisan additional information about the number of times the developers have visited Marion.

The destination user has been to Marion twice, the company’s owner once and representative of the water park hotel have visited the city twice, Holland said.

“Things are progressing, right now we’re at their mercy,” he said. “They move as fast as they want to move.”

... Holland said the owner of a destination user told him he loved the spot, wanted to build in Marion and wanted to fore-go a letter of intent in favor of committing to a lease or sales contract.

The developers of both projects are currently doing site studies and economic analyzes to determine the site of their stores. Both media outlets reported Holland expecting some announcements in the next couple of months.

No word yet on an entertainment user, which suggests they've already got something lined up.

In order to be approved by the Illinois Department of Revenue the law requires a master plan must be developed showing at least $100 million in investments that would generate at least $100 million in annual sales taxes as well as the creation of a minimum of 500 jobs.