Glen Carbon mulls final decisions on Orchard Town Center project

The preliminary site plan released last fall by the Village of Glen Carbon for the Orchard Town Center. Center Grove Road is to the right (running east-west) in this view. Troy Road, which runs north-south, is shown at top. Governors’ Parkway is to the left (running east-west).

By CHARLIE FELDMAN

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With the vote on the proposed Orchard Town Center project growing nearer, the Glen Carbon Village Board had the opportunity to hear public comment on the possible taxing districts and a professional’s rundown about how those work when it met on Tuesday, June 8.

The meeting followed two public hearings, legal requirements on the road to approval – or disapproval by the board.

The Foucek property where the center would be built is a greenspace with trees and a house across the highway from Schnucks. Some small stores and a Menards would be constructed in a “blighted” area that currently has traffic issues and is over Mine No. 4, which is subsiding.

The project is expected to cost  $70-$75 million in private funds during the life of the process – approximately $30 million from the developer, Steinberg Group, for the purchase of the property and work on the infrastructure and another $40-45 million for private site costs including construction. The public’s portion would be up to $3 million from a proposed business district and up to $4 million from a Tax Increment Funds district.

This is not yet finalized. Action on the financing package and developer’s agreement are anticipated sometime in July.

The public aired their concerns about adding taxing districts and developing the property to Keith Moran of Moran Economic Development and to the board. They asked questions and presented arguments like these: If the property remains undeveloped, then there would be no risk of losing more money from schools through a TIF district, would there? What about the environmental issues from the mine, from losing trees and losing the habitat of the wildlife that lives there? There are too many chain stores in the area already, aren’t there? Menards, which would not be part of the business district, should pay more of the cost, one said. It has money.

“I think they listened to us,” said Rachel Tompkins, who aired her concerns about paving the property and losing greenspace. “The mayor was writing things down, so he gets bonus points for that.”

“We’ll see,” said Donna Charleston, who spoke about the TIF district’s effect on school funding and whether it and the addition of another big box home improvement store in a relatively small population area were necessary in the first place. “The bottom line is that we’ll see.”

A few members of the public remained to watch the regular meeting.

There, Gene Norber, president of St. Louis-based Economic Development Resources, the firm that the village hired to review both the business and TIF districts and to represent it in negotiations with the taxing jurisdictions and the developers, explained to the trustees and the public how the project would work.

“There are extraordinary costs associated with developing this property,” he said, “and that’s what the business district and TIF are looking to accomplish.”

Because construction hasn’t begun, the forecast and analysis of the financing is based on conditions in the market today, Norbert said. He stressed that there would be no financing and no bonds would be issued until the half with Menards and some of the other businesses is at least partially completed. Until then, the financial risk of supporting the project falls squarely on the developer, he said. When the bonds are issued, the risk falls on bondholders, not the village, he said.

TIFs and business districts are the way the public would pay up to $7 million toward the total cost.

“The business district operates on the premise that sales at retail will be subject to the levy of an additional one percent sales tax,” Norber explained.

He said that the project as proposed looks to open partially in late summer 2022 with Menards and approximately half of the dozen or so outparcels generating revenues. The rest is scheduled to open in late summer 2023, he said.

A wedge-shaped 54-acre piece of land south of Governors Parkway, the land is the expected home not only of a Menards home improvement store, but also smaller businesses as well. All the entrances are controlled by outside jurisdictions – Edwardsville, Madison County and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

“Nothing is finalized for Orchard Town Center,” the mayor said after the meeting. “No public incentives have been finalized. The plans have not been finalized

“The project is a proposed project,” he said. “It has not yet been voted on.”

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