By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
The success of a public-private residential project next to the MetroLink station in Swansea has communities inquiring about similar projects of their own.
Southwestern Illinois Development Authority and Bywater Development Group joined with Bi-State Development representatives and others in March for a ribbon-cutting celebrating the grand opening of Metro Landing of Swansea, a $10.9 million project.
Most of the 62, one- and two-bedroom units were on track to be leased by month’s end, said Mike Lundy, executive director of SWIDA. A waiting list is expected. Rents start at $565 per month for a one-bedroom apartment and $705 for a two-bedroom apartment.
The three-story building caters to adults seeking an independent lifestyle at an affordable cost. Residents will have car-free transportation options via MetroLink and MetroBus to access restaurants, retail, entertainment venues, recreational locations, employment centers, and medical facilities throughout the bi-state region. The Swansea Station is also on the MetroBikeLink trail.
“We’re confident it will be a catalyst for further exciting developments in Swansea and other MetroLink stations throughout the region,” said James Nations, SWIDA’s board chairman.
The project broke ground in January 2018. SWIDA and Bywater, which
jointly developed the project, secured most of the financing from the Illinois Housing Development Authority, with additional construction financing provided by PNC Bank.
Additional support came from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and Ameren, along with the St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants Department. The Federal Transit Administration provided the necessary approval for Bi-State Development to sell the ground at the transit center to the developers.
Nations said SWIDA in the last two years has gotten behind four other major residential projects. One was opened last year, Emerald Ridge in East Alton.
Two others are quickly moving forward. Both of those have been approved for Illinois Housing Development Authority tax credits and, upon financial closing, could start construction this year. One is redeveloping the historic Hotel Belleville into the Lofts on the Square. Another is a 48-unit affordable senior housing development called Highland Villas in Highland.
The fourth is eyed in Carlyle, where SWIDA is laying the application for another 48 units in what’s called the Lakeside Villas.
“SWIDA will continue to seek opportunities in Bond, Clinton, Madison and St. Clair counites,” Nations said.
Bi-State Development President and Chief Executive Officer Taulby Roach said security is his foremost concern with transit, and having a development such as the one in Swansea provides an extra layer of protection.
“It enhances security; more people are watching their neighborhood, being part of the solution. That’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.
Noting that Swansea is a success, Roach said, “Now, how do we pull these kinds of successes into all of our neighborhoods, including Missouri?”
State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, said St. Clair County voters had the foresight years ago to levy a tax to pay for the MetroLink system.
“The vision we had at that time was developments like this, around the MetroLink station,” he said. “It’s the vision that really matters.”
Swansea Mayor Mike Leopold also spoke at the event, highlighting the broader impact he expects the project to have.
“While the facility has only recently been completed, it has already done exactly what we hoped it would do – serving as a catalyst for further development around this MetroLink station,” Leopold said. “We are currently in talks with other developers who are exploring opportunities — more businesses that we can add to this area.”
Leopold said the village is willing to add its own monies to the development, noting that it is now considering use of TIF money to improve signage and the entrance to the station area and beautify the nearby Belleville/Swansea Moose Lodge.
John Langa, vice president of economic development at Bi-State Development, said projects like Metro Landing of Swansea are an investment in the local economy.
“Since 2011, we’ve seen more than $8.3 billion in commercial development completed, under construction or reasonably committed within a half-mile of our 38 MetroLink stations,” Langa said.
Days before its official debut came news that Metro Landing of Swansea had captured the 2019 Wyvetter H. Younge Award recognizing champions in affordable housing. The award was presented in late February at the 2019 Illinois Governor’s Conference on Affordable Housing, co-hosted by the Illinois Housing Council and IHDA. The Wyvetter H. Younge Award is presented annually in recognition of outstanding affordable housing developments or initiatives in a metropolitan area outside of metropolitan Chicago. Metro Landing of Swansea received the top score in that category, which seeks to honor developments and initiatives that improve quality of life and health of the community.
Mary Kane, a resident of Metro East who is on the IHDA board, said the agency worked hard to make the project a reality.
“You should be so proud,” she told residents who had gathered. “It’s not always easy to bring projects downstate from Chicago.”
St. Louis-based Altman Charter served as general contractor for Metro Landing. Chicago-based Worn Jerabek Wiltse Architects is the project architect, and the property is professionally managed by ND&S Management Co.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH