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.