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I've been out of town and missed the news, but the Marion City Council moved forward on plans last week for a new 74-acre commercial office, retail and restaurant space development on the south side of Illinois Route 13 generally between Skyline Drive and the Burlington-Northern Railroad.
The site is owned by two locally-owned LLCs, Celeste Linha LLC and Cerrado LLC. Marion businessmen Ron Osman and Jim Reichert own the first one, and Osman is the principal investor in the second, according to an article in the Southern Illinoisan.
The largest tract south of Illinois Route 13 immediately west of Sam's Club has long shown disinterest in developing their property, at best only wanting to lease rather than sell. That has left the next tract across from Toys R' Us in a position of being unable to develop due to lack of access roads to Walton Way and Skyline Drive.
Now that IDOT is building the frontage road between those two roads and extending Marathon Drive south from the mall property to the new road, this property will have access. Owned by Phil Campbell, formerly of the old Campbell's Harley-Davidson dealership, now Black Diamond, he's been wanting to see this land developed ever since the Illinois Centre mall opened. Now he can.
The next tract to the west was the north end of the old Saluki National Golf Course fiasco from the early 1980s that sent the developer to jail. Many of the bodies of water visible in the satellite view date to the golf course. This is part of the 74 acres included in the redevelopment and I believe this is the Celeste Linha LLC property.
The fourth tract sits at the corner of Route 13 and Skyline and includes a large 35,000 sq. ft. building that Osman (Cerrado LLC) will tear down as part of the redevelopment. The building has been offices for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, a department store in the 1970s and was originally build as a furniture store in 1966 for Beiderman's Furniture, a national chain.
The St. Louis chain entered the Marion market in 1962 when it bought the Williams Furniture Store at 307-09 N. Market St., which had been in business for seven years. Today that location is the home of Bennie's Italian Foods.
Beiderman began work on the Skyline Drive location in 1966, in what was then an isolated commercial cluster at the intersection halfway between the interstate and Illinois Route 148. Lawrence Wohlwend had already been active in developing Westernaire Plaza at the intersection which included his Chrysler dealership where the current one remains. The new Beiderman store opened March 12, 1967. At the time it was one of the chain's 38 stores in the Midwest and one of 87 stores nationwide.
The city annexed the land the following month on April 5. The chain went under in 1974. A Valu-Store took its place and open in October 1976.
An effort earlier this decade at a new residential development on micro-sized lots drew the wrath of neighbors to the south and never materialized.
The Southern's story mentions that the city has agreed with taking out the railroad spur that crosses the old golf course property and will reimburse developers for a number of infrastructure costs with 75 percent of the city's 1 percent sales tax collected in the area.
The story did not mention any TIF monies being used, but the land, at least the Beiderman building is part of a TIF district. Demolition of the building, site preparation, and the construction of roads and utilities are all reimbursable expenses under TIFs.
Osman said the development has already been more than 20 years in the making, time which he's spent acquiring property and various tracts of land.
"It's kind of like giving birth to an elephant, it takes a long time," Osman said. "And it's still a long way from being done."
Work on the frontage road should be completed by the end of the year. Work will begin sometime on the new Illinois Route 13 overpass over Marathon Drive and the Burlington-Northern Railroad, despite the clear lack of enthusiasm for the project by anybody in City Hall, at the mall or just about anywhere else.