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    Bob Brockland Buick GMC broke ground on a new facility along Old State Route 3 in Columbia late last year and will be open for business in its new location in the summer of 2014. It is just across the road from Weber Chevrolet, and some think it might be the catalyst to attract other auto dealers to the area that borders I-255.
     “It would be a wonderful thing if we could get a couple more dealerships in that area and have kind of an auto mall,” said Columbia Mayor Kevin Hutchinson.
    Brockland is a family owned and operated dealership that started out in Fairmont City in 1975. It currently operates on Camp Jackson Road in Cahokia and will be moving its operations to its new 16,550-square-foot Columbia facility as soon as it is completed.
    According to Paul Ellis, director of community and economic development for the city, community leaders are planning to promote local real estate assets and available properties through a marketing campaign in 2014, centered on a 2,000-acre tract in Columbia’s American Bottom that they hope will be served by a new interchange at Fish Lake Road, currently the last overpass in Illinois before the Jefferson Barracks Bridge. Columbia is working to develop a regional partnership with neighboring Dupo and Sauget that will be focused on growth of those communities as well as of the Union Pacific rail yards.
     “Columbia is in the southeastern corner of the St. Louis region,” Ellis said. South County is a 10-minute drive across the Jefferson Barracks Bridge and downtown St. Louis is a 15-minute commute, but the area has long been overlooked for major development. While Monroe County is the second-fastest growing of the eight counties in the bi-state region, its population is still only a fraction of that in neighboring St. Clair County.”
    Prior to the recession, both Columbia and Dupo were working with developers on large-scale projects along I-255. The combination of the recession and the levee crisis put those plans on hold. Hutchinson said that now that the economy is reviving and the levee rehabilitation project is well on its way to completion next year, it’s time to start looking for a developer for Columbia’s American Bottom.
    Hutchinson said that he also expected a revival of the Discovery Business Park in Dupo. That project was a 2,000-acre, primarily industrial development project of Clayco Construction Co. of St. Louis. Hutchinson said he’s been working with Mayor Ron Dell of Dupo to coordinate the developments so that they would be complimentary — not competing.
    Columbia has already done the preliminary engineering on the Fish Lake Road interchange on I-255 which would open thousands of acres up for a wide range of development.
     “There are plenty of rooftops around it and it’s ready to develop,” Hutchinson said. “It has rail, river, freeway, even a small airport. It has a little bit of everything. It is poised and ready to go.”