Thursday, June 15, 2017

Marion Council Considers Ideas for Old City Hall

The Marion City Council discussed three competing proposals Monday night for the 114-year-old for former City Hall building. Options range from a micro-brewery, a pizzeria or a full-service restaurant. The discussion took place in close session and not in public as it dealt with the possible sale of city-owned real estate. No action was taken afterwards.

The Marion Republican has the story.
Butler said three individuals, all from Marion, have approached the city with the different ideas for how the old building could be used. He did not name the individuals but said the council seems to be favoring one of the ideas. 
"We had three proposals, and I think we are pretty settled on one, but we haven't taken any official action," Butler said on Tuesday. He added the city will make an announcement shortly, either at the next council meeting in two weeks, or even before then.
The building sits in the northeastern corner of the square at 100 Tower Square Plaza. Built in 1903, the Marion State and Savings Bank used the first floor while the city had its offices on the second. When the bank built what is now the Citadel Building on the west side of the square in 1914, the city purchased the building and moved operations to the main floor.

The Marion police utilized rooms upstairs for years as the city police station before eventually moving to the ground floor in the north half of the building. The northeast corner of the basement housed the city jail. The city moved out of the building to larger offices in the current City Hall on the east side of the square in August 1993.

This is the third round of trying to find someone to refurbish and find a use for the old building since the Marion Living magazine closed up shop. Of the three suggestions, a microbrewery would likely have the most impact in bringing additional visitors to the city.

Although this is not the first proposal for a microbrewery in the city (one progressed a few years ago to the point of meeting with city officials on what changes would need to be made in the city's liquor ordinance to allow one), if selected, this proposal for one would be the first one of its kind to open in the county and would fit with the ongoing development of a downtown entertainment and nightlife district.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Demolition Starts at Marion's Old Executive Inn

No more outside wall on the east side of the former Holiday Inn.

A Marion tourism landmark shuttered for the last 13 years will finally be coming down. Crews were seen working today on tackling the outer walls of the former 200-room hotel. The hotel was one of a number of Holiday Inn franchises built and operated by Carbondale developer Stan Hoye. The Carbondale hotel opened in 1968 and was demolished last year.

The Marion hotel opened in June 1969 with 100 rooms, two swimming pools, the Five O'Clock Club cocktail lounge, a restaurant with a dining capacity of 100 and banquet facilities for 250. After losing its original franchise it operated briefly as a Travelodge before shifting to its final name of Executive Inn.

In January 2004, a judge ordered the hotel closed when the owner at the time failed to fix numerous life-safety code violations. The state fire marshal's office found 27 violations in 2002. When they re-inspected the building in December 2003 they still found a dozen violations including the lack of a sprinkler system. Although an official at the time suggested the order was only temporary if the building could be brought into compliance, he doubted it would be due to the high cost.

It's fate may have been sealed a few months later when the Fairfield Inn opened on The Hill. Built at a time decades earlier when it dominated the county's hospitality industry, newer hotels and restaurants proved to be too much competition. As late as 2000, the hotel operations generated only a fraction of what its competitors could do, about one-fifth of Drury Inn's take and coming in ninth among the Marion establishments, even behind the Motel 6 and the Super 8. By 2003, its taxable revenues had been cut in half again.

Back in December 2007, then owner Dr. Yuseph Ta told the Southern Illinoisan he planned a $4 million renovation that would cut the hotel down to a 100-room Garden Inn. City officials proved lukewarm to that idea and privately suggested condemnation would be a better idea.

Former Marion Harley-Davidson dealer Phil Campbell later bought the property and planned to redevelop it, at least until the Great Recession slowed the local economy. A check of land records shows that he appears to have sold the parcel to JMB Development last summer on August 30, 2016. The sales price of $3.1 million comes to about $10.30 a square foot if the 7.33 acres amount is correct on the county's GIS maps. Vacant land in that area and Halfway Road has been going for around $15/sq. ft. for the last decade.

It's not certain what demolition of the hotel would cost, but a figure of $400,000 was bandied about a decade ago which was one of the key reasons why the city didn't try to condemn and demolish it themselves.

The new company, owned by Marion contractor Jerry Barrass, had previously bought the former Wolohan property along Halfway and the former Morgan Avenue, now The Hill Avenue.

With the development of the expanded I-57 interchange and the new access road into the land behind the old Holiday Inn, three new developments have targeted the area, raising prices as the amount of vacant land runs low. IHOP purchased its 1-acre tract for $500,940, at a bargain price of $11.50/sq. ft. to help kick off the development spree. BB Management LLC, the owner of the new Culvers, paid $750,000 for 1.08 acres, or around $14.76/sq. ft.

Across the street to the south in May of last year JMB Development sold the 1.71 acre easternmost portion of the Wolohan property to the owners of the Mach 1 convenience store that will soon open for just under $1.2 million, or $16/sq. ft.

The city created the Hillview TIF District for the area to help reimburse development costs which can include acquisition costs, demolition, rebah of structures should the development company decide to keep any of the old hotel, as well as extension of the access road onto the property on the north side of Illinois Route 13. The Southern quoted city officials last spring indicating $27 million in private investment was heading to the area. The only project hinted at, but not named so far, has been a possible hotel development.