By ALAN J. ORTBALS
The city of Belleville is using tax increment financing to catalyze a 170-acre development on Illinois Route 15, revitalize West Main Street and bring more residents and businesses downtown.
The long-awaited Hofbrauhaus is set for its grand opening this month complete with visitors from Munich. The city used a combination of a TIF district, a special business district and an Enterprise Zone to extended infrastructure to the site; open it up for development; and support the private investment. Located across Illinois 15 from Our Lady of the Snows Shrine, a Jack Flash convenience store has submitted a site plan and Mayor Eckert said hotels and other restaurants are still being pursued.
“It’s going to be good for the Shrine, it’s going to be good for Belleville, and it’s going to be good for this whole region,” Eckert said.
The city has also been active on West Main, using resources to assist in the revitalization of the Market Square Shopping Center and Shopland Plaza. It also assisted in the demolition of two, old dilapidated apartment buildings and the development of new villas and single family homes.
Eckert said that one of Belleville’s challenges is that it’s 10 miles long and that means that city government has to make sure all areas of the city are getting attention.
“You take some targeted action that creates momentum and creates confidence and that spurs other private investment and development both within and outside of your TIF districts,” Eckert said.
The city has worked for years to make and keep its downtown alive and strong. In that process its utilized TIF to install new streetscape and help businesses and developers renovate, restore and reutilize its historic buildings. It’s currently working with the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority to redevelop the Meredith Home across the street from city hall and is working with other developers on another project to convert second- and third-floor space to lofts and apartments. Eckert said that they’ve had a lot of success with downtown but there’s still much to be accomplished.
“Every city around the state is basically faced with the same challenges,” Eckert said. “If not for things like TIFs and Enterprise Zones, we would really be struggling. We need every tool in the toolbox if we’re going to continue to be successful. This is especially true for cities that do not have an interstate.”