By ALAN J. ORTBALS
The city of Fairview Heights has been the “retail hub of Southern Illinois” for almost 50 years and city leaders want to keep it that way.
The typical urban development
pattern, said Paul Ellis, the city’s director of economic development, has been that an area would get hot, attract development, then get old and tired, leaving behind vacancies and deterioration. City leaders might then attempt to redevelop and revitalize the area with more or less success.
Fairview Heights doesn’t intend to follow that rise and fall path. Ellis said that the city’s strategy is to constantly be improving, keeping commercial areas fresh and vibrant. “I don’t think you’ve seen this done anywhere in the metro east, at least not to this degree,” said Ellis. And, he adds, “TIF and Enterprise Zone are making it possible.”
The city currently has six TIF districts, the most active of which is the Lincoln Trails TIF that runs along Lincoln Trail from Illinois Route 159 to Bunkum Road and includes the Market Place shopping center with retailers such as Best Buy, Golf Galaxy and Weekends Only.
The city is installing sidewalks and bus shelters along Lincoln Trail over a five-year time span. It’s also providing matching funds of up to $75,000 for businesses for expansion projects in the corridor: NAPA McKay Auto Parts, Perfect Finish, an auto detailer, and Meineke Car Care Center are some of the businesses that have taken advantage of the program to date.
In addition, the city is kicking off a $5 million streetscape project along Commerce Lane and Market Place. The project will include new curbs, gutters, sidewalks, trees, signs, medians and a roundabout where the two streets meet.
“The goal of this strategy is to utilize public investment and improvements to catalyze private investment and development,” Ellis said. “Like a store, you go for a few years and it’s time for a renovation. They change their displays regularly; they change their facades; even change out the store’s composition; all to keep it fresh and keep the customer coming back. Communities do it, too,” Ellis added. “As we celebrate Fairview Height’s 50th year (2019) as a retail hub, we’re looking forward to setting the table for the next generation of retail.”