Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New Hotel Aims for Downtown Carbondale

Construction of a new 85 unit, 4 or 5 story Home2 Suites hotel in downtown Carbondale could take place by the end of the year.

The hotel will be located on just under an acre of vacant property on the north side of Elm Street stretching from Illinois to University Avenues. About 60 percent of the rooms will be extended stay suites and developers plan a coffee shop on the ground floor as well. Today's Southern Illinoisan has the story. This story the day before provides a bit more information.

The Carbondale City Council approved the sale of the .9617 acre lot to Sai Krishna LLC of Carbondale last night. Closing is to take place within 30 days and be "substantially" complete within 18 months.

The council sold the property at a bargain price of $75,000 which is just $1.79/sq. ft., significantly less than commercial property on the eastern outskirts of the city. However securing a quality hotel in the heart of the city has long been a part of the community leader's plans for decades and even predate the current city hall structure.

The land includes a parking lot, a vacant lot and a half-block city alley. It's immediately south of PK's bar in the 200 block of South Illinois Avenue.

An earlier story quoted city officials on the demand for a hotel.

Carbondale Assistant City Manager Gary Williams said the city had a hotel feasibility study performed in 2013 and found that it would be a favorable and economically feasible project.

Williams said when the project was complete, the city garnered interest immediately. He said the location on West Elm between University and Illinois avenues is a solid location.

“It is positioned a little over a half mile from SIU and it is less than that from SIH,” he said. “Those are two of the biggest demand generators in our region.

At Tuesday's council meeting Curtis Conley, who is both manager of PK's and president of the Carbondale Music Coalition, strongly supported the hotel. Ditto for Southern Illinois Healthcare President Rex Budde who said the development would benefit the hospital.

The development company Sai Krishna LLC registered with the Secretary of State's office earlier this year on March 6. The state lists Pradeep Reddy of Carbondale and Naresh Patel of Harrisburg as managers with Reddy also serving as the LLC's agent of record.

A few years ago Reedy and his wife donated three acres of land for the region's first Hindu temple at 1209 E. Walnut St. and has served as president of Hindu Temple and Cultural Society of Southern Illinois. Patel operates the Comfort Inn and Super 8 hotels in Harrisburg.

The new lodging development comes after a rash of much needed older hotel/motel demolitions in Jackson County.

The old Best Inns of America motel, last operating as the Unicity Inn east of the University Mall has recently made way for a new IHOP restaurant that broke ground in April. Developers paid $875,000 for the tract which will also include, "3,000 square feet for another “fast-casual” themed restaurant and 10,000 square feet of retail."

The city is also working on demolishing the former Horizon Inn, originally the city's first Holiday Inn, on Main Street. The city took ownership of the three parcels for around $2,000 and is looking for a develop who will demolish the building and redevelop the land.

In Murphysboro, the Southern Illinoisan reported yesterday that the Apple Tree Inn at the intersection of Routes 13 and 127 in Murphysboro has a new owner. The motel closed earlier June 1 following a foreclosure sale earlier in the day by the Jackson County Circuit Clerk. Joe Koppeis of Columbia, won the auction with a bid of $125,000.

Koppeis is the owner of the Holiday Inn in Sparta, the real estate company Admiral Parkway Inc., four shopping centers, hardware stores and a Domino’s franchise throughout Southern Illinois.

Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens said he has been in contact with Koppeis, but knows there aren’t any concrete plans. He said Koppeis is commissioning a few studies to determine what would be the most feasible for the location.

Although Stephens is in the dark about what may be coming, he said the developer does have plans to demolish the building.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Dig Two Graves Clip Features Tunnel Hill State Trail

Dig Two Graves, the movie that filmed in multiple Southern Illinois locations in 2013, has hit the festival circuit, before it returns (hopefully) later this year for a screening.

Meanwhile as the producers get ready for their Los Angeles premiere Sunday at the historic TCL Chinese Theaters as part of the Dances with Films festival, director/screenwriter Hunter Adams has released a teaser clip online.

Dig Two Graves Teaser clip from Hunter McLean Adams on Vimeo.

Besides the Tunnel Hill State Trail, the film also used Ferne Clyffe State Park, Mermet Springs, downtown Marion and Vienna, the Goddard Chapel in Marion, a school in Grand Chain, the Williamson County Jail Museum in Marion, a bar near Olmstead, a house near Mill Creek and the moonshiners shack near the lower Big Muddy River.

The production also used the homes of two former Southern Illinois Congressmen, the E. E. Denison House in Marion, now Mimosa Manor gift shop on Cherry Street, and the A. J. Kuykendall House in Vienna. Denison served during Prohibition in the 1920s. Kuykendall served during the Civil War.

For more on the film, which is a tale of the woes of vengeance, check out their Facebook page which has all the latest updates, the website, as well as their IMDb page to check out some of the Southern Illinoisans who joined the cast and crew.

The film takes place during 1977 (with frequent flashbacks to 1947) in the fictional town of Egypt, Illinois. There's even a Charlie Birger reference early in the film, although the Miss Cheeserilla pageant that takes place is one of the few references to the director's native Wisconsin and the North Woods where the film was originally set.

Walkers Bluff Casino?

In an apparent effort to attract downstate votes for a new Chicago casino a new wrinkle in the proposed legislation would allow casino gaming at Walkers Bluff and as well as a second place in Decatur.

Until last month, the general outlines of a plan included the new Chicago casino, as well as smaller casinos in southern Cook County, Rockford, Danville and Lake County.

But as the spring legislative session wound down last week, a new plan emerged that would bring smaller “satellite” casinos to central and Southern Illinois.

Each of those would have between 400 and 600 gaming positions.

Kurt Erickson of the Southern Illinoisan's Springfield bureau has the story.

I would link to the actual legislation, but it doesn't appear to have been filed yet. At least I could not find it on the General Assembly's website.

Walkers Bluff features Legends restaurant, gift shop and music venue. It has long claimed to be very much more than just a winery, but Southern Illinois' premiere entertainment venue. The article did not include any comment by the establishment's owners, Cynde and David Bunch.

In the interest of full disclosure I should point out that The General Store at Walkers Bluff is now carrying my books and others published or distributed by

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Budget War Claims First Casualties

Two days after Democratic lawmakers passed a budget some $4 billion out of whack, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced plans to shutter the Illinois State Museum and its five facilities as part of a series of wide-ranging cutbacks for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

In Southern Illinois that would mean the closing of the Southern Illinois Art and Artisans Center at Rend Lake off of Exit 77 on Interstate 57, as well as similar facilities in Lockport and Chicago, as well as the main state museum in Springfield and the Dickson Mounds museum and historic site.

The Rend Lake center's hours had already been cut to five days a week, open on just Wednesday through Sunday. The 15,000 square foot facility includes Artisans Shop and the Southern Illinois Art Gallery.

Greg Hines of Crain's Chicago Business has the full story.

The other regional site on the cutting block is the Hardin County Work Camp in the Department of Corrections which houses 180 inmates that are toward the end of their terms as well as 60 staff. Because it's a work camp, the impact will also be felt by area communities and local governments who rely on the free labor for cleanup projects. The inmates have been credited for helping save the village of Old Shawneetown more than once with their sandbagging.

Lawmakers are expected to return to Springfield in about two weeks for a summer overtime session to deal with a number of major issues including the budget, pension reform, various ways to improve the state's job climate to counter the needed tax increases that are expected to pass in the end, a capital projects bill as well as possible expansion of gambling.

Tuesday's move by the governor is just the latest skirmish in the budget battle, and is not likely to actually go into effect if a new balance budget is passed. However if lawmakers don't compromise then expect the cuts to stay and more to follow as the latest move only tallies up to $400 million in saving, just a tenth of what's needed.

The move comes two days after lawmakers passed SB 1728 over the weekend that would establish the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum as a separate agency and move the Illinois State Museum sites to Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Doug Finke and the State Journal-Register has the story.

More on that proposal can be found over at Lawmakers had passed that version of the bill over a similar bill that would have moved the remaining parts of IHPA over to a new division of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity that would also include the state's tourism and film offices.

Another part of Tuesday's announcement included deferring any actions on new film production tax credits until the state's budget situation improved. It's a reasonable move that may or may not withstand the scrutiny of the state's courts considering the credits are part of the state's tax code.

The governor's announcement of all the cuts follows below: