COLLINSVILLE — On her Destination Collinsville game board, Erika Kennett has three strategic pieces that she moves about, in order to lure investment.
The city’s director of economic development calls them “my three chess pieces.”
One of the enticements is the availability of retail development space in Collinsville Crossing, the complex that includes the Walmart Supercenter along Interstate 55/70. She includes the 108-acre Maag Farm property that is for sale just to the south, as part of her strategy.
Her two other chessmen are the Eastport Plaza area for corporate/office space and the Horseshoe Lake Road/I-255/Fournie Lane/McDonough Lake Road area for light industrial use.
All three development possibilities position the city in coming years, she said.
“Here in Collinsville, we are poised for growth,” she said.
The city recently extended 10-inch water and sewer lines to the area along Horseshoe Lake Road, west of Illinois Route 157, opening up the possible development of 150 acres.
“We’re not Gateway Commerce Center (in Edwardsville and Pontoon Beach),” she said. “We’re not going to be able to get the 2-million-square-foot buildings. But we are primed and ready for the 100,000-(square-foot) multi-tenant buildings.”
She added: “At the cost of $700,000 we were able to put this infrastructure in place, so that we are ready, now that the economy has turned around, for those types of businesses to come in.”
The general area could also support residential development. A new, 10-inch sewer main extension serves 138 new family homes, 200 existing homes and opens up 300 acres of developable ground in the Sugar Loaf area.
The nearby Eastport area, which is on the south side of Horseshoe Lake Road, has been a big draw for many years and while things slowed down during the recession, there is renewed interest in it. Dynegy Homefield Energy, which took over marketing for Ameren, located there and brought with it 100 jobs. Lindenwood University Belleville has signed a long-term lease on the former Sanford Brown business school building on Eastport Plaza Drive and will be opening a satellite campus there in the fall.
“The city has spoken to two building development companies that are interested in building buildings again in Eastport. The conversation had always been going on, but then the market collapsed,” Kennett said.
“We’re coming back to the table, and I think that is really important, very telling. What we’re hearing from the brokers in Eastport is they are running out of existing facilities. They’ve got businesses that want to come to the city, they like the interstate access, but the challenge is we are running out of available space. That’s a good problem to have.”
Getting developers to say yes is tough because financing is still a challenge.
“People are starting to go back to the banks, but there is still an issue with trust. People are afraid to put their money on the line because they lost so much of it five years ago. They’re trying to find more solid investments to avoid that risk,” she said. “We are excited to be part of the conversation.”
Collinsville, with a population of 25,000, has adopted a more progressive mentality on economic development in recent years, traceable to the late Mayor Stan Schaeffer who jumpstarted the process about 15 years ago. The mindset has continued on with current Mayor John Miller, who took office after Schaeffer died in 2008.
Collinsville is, among other things, building a new, $17.3 million water treatment plant off Collinsville Road. That will not address capacity as much as it will emergencies. Should any part of the system go down, there will be backup.
This fiscal year has already been busy, with $5.2 million in permits for various construction, but the next couple of years may also provide a boom, Kennett said.
Collinsville is working with several other jurisdictions to form a regional enterprise zone. The proposed area would include St Jacob, Highland, Troy, Maryville, Glen Carbon, Collinsville and part of Madison County. None of the communities is presently part of an enterprise zone.
“Since we’re doing a multiple-jurisdictional effort, we’re allowed up to 15 square miles to be within our zone. We don’t want to use all of the 15 miles, because we want to be able to expand if the projects grow. We are coming to come to the table with our Christmas list of sites,” she said.
The application is due Dec. 31 and is being coordinated by John Herzog of Madison County Community Development.
Kennett said Collinsville’s zone would be unique because it would not include property tax abatement, which is already included as part of existing tax increment financing district areas. The idea would be to layer the enterprise zone with the TIF areas and see what additional incentives are possible.
Each of the communities has signed a contract with Moran Economic Development to jointly pursue the zone.
“Everybody’s in,” she said, noting the strength in numbers.
“There’s a state board that will judge the enterprise zone applications. We figure it’s a bigger win politically for the state to award it to six municipalities and one county, as one, to cover a gamut of people with just one application. Whereas, other communities going at it alone may not have that partnership or enough political pull,” she said.
Some $9 million in road projects are also underway in Collinsville, $8 million of them federally funded.
The projects and their anticipated completion date, cost and construction particulars:
- South Clinton Street Phase 1, completed last October, $600,000, up to 80 percent federal funding for construction through the Surface Transportation Program, match from Madison County and motor fuel tax fund.
- South Clinton Street Phase 2, to be completed next November, $700,000, funding share similar to Phase 1.
- Camelot sidewalks, completed in June, $280,000; up to 100 percent federal funding
- Beltline/Keebler, 2015, $800,000; up to 80 percent federal funding through the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program, balance from Northeast Business District, Madison County and Illinois Department of Transportation.
- South Clinton Bridge, 2014, $1.2 million, up to 80 percent federal funding through the Major Bridge Program funds, balance from Madison County and MFT.
- Streetscape Phase 3, 2014, $1 million, up to 75 percent federal funding through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program, balance from TIF
- Summit Avenue Bridge, 2015, $810,000, up to 80 percent federal funding through the Surface Transportation Program, balance from TIF
- Twin Echo School sidewalks, $200,000, 100 percent federal funding through Safe Routes to School Program
- Clay Street resurfacing, 2016, $600,000, up to 80 percent federal funding for construction through the Surface Transportation Program, balance from TIF
- Streetscape Phase 4, 2016, $1.8 million, up to 75 percent federal funding through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program, balance from TIF
- Streetscape Phase 5, 2018, $1.3 million, up to 75 percent federal funding through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program, balance from TIF.