By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
A substantial revamp of the infrastructure along the East St. Louis riverfront is more than half complete with truck traffic now using some of the overhauled roads and potential developers starting to show interest.
Phase 1 of the $8.1 million River Bridge District project is all but done, involving the reconstruction of about a mile of Front Street between two large grain operations, Cargill to the south and the Bunge-SCF operation on the north. Phase 2 is now underway, with some of the most visible work being a roundabout constructed at the entrance to the Casino Queen on River Park Drive.
Key to the overall project was a decision by the two grain operators and the casino ownership to contribute $500,000 each to the work. A number of other sources stepped in to finance the project.
“While we are the recipient of a $3.5 million Federal EDA grant, many other public and private sources of funds were contributed,” Terry W. Beach, executive director of St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants Department, and the county’s economic development director.
The low bidder on both phases of the project was Baxmeyer Construction Co., of Waterloo.
Other contributors to the project are the Economic Development Administration, $3,537,052; the Illinois Department of Transportation (TARP funds), $124,795; the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority, $1.5 million; St. Clair County Transit District, $900,000; and the Metro East Park and Recreation District, $500,000.
Another big player has been Illinois American Water Co. along Front Street.
“All total they spent just over $9 million ($9,070,000) on the project to install roughly three miles of new large diameter mains. There were five active mains in the street that were replaced. They ranged from 12 to 24 inches in diameter,” Beach said.
The oldest of the mains dated to the early 1900s and the newest went in around the time the Casino Queen was built in the 1990s.
“These mains carried water to the East St. Louis, Sauget, Cahokia and Columbia areas. At one time Dupo also took water from these mains,” Beach said.
The mains were replaced with two new ones. One is routed in an easement adjacent to the street and then around the back of the Casino Queen, and the second is in the street.
Phase 1 was mainly the overhaul of Front Street and Trendley Avenue, widening them to 30 feet to accommodate large vehicles. Up to 500 farm trucks a day pass through that area during harvest season, Beach said.
“It’s busy throughout the year, but especially harvest season,” he said.
The work, of course, is intended to get trucks off River Park Drive by using a newly improved, circuitous route that includes connections leading to the access roadwork built for relocated Illinois Route 3 and the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge.
That allows trucks coming in from the north, east and west to avoid River Park Drive and get to Front Street, about a quarter of a mile from the Bunge-SCF site.
Casino Queen wanted the roundabout entrance to further dissuade trucks from using that route.
“East St. Louis imposed a weight limit so that trucks going to Cargill will go down Main Street to Trendley,” Beach said.
Bunge and Cargill both said their customers like the improvements.
“Front Street wasn’t too bad going toward Cargill, but going north of the Queen, Front Street was loaded with potholes and the road was very narrow,” Beach said. “It would hold water when it rained. Sometimes the truckers and others going to the (Illinois American) water plant would have to drive through two feet of water, sometimes greater. It was a horrible situation.”
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
A premier event for those who follow the retail development trade is coming this month to Fairview Heights.
The Downstate Illinois P3 Luncheon, held under the auspices of The International Council of Shopping Centers, will take place Tuesday, Aug. 14, at the Four Points by Sheraton in Fairview Heights. The theme this year is “Retail Done Right: Expansion and Growth in a Churning Market.”
ICSC is the trade association of the retail real estate industry. The P3 program is a forum for the public and private sector to network and discuss development issues and mutually desired retail projects. P3 is a catchword for public-private partnerships.
The Metro East event is being sponsored jointly by the Illinois Business Journal and the cities of Fairview Heights, O’Fallon, Collinsville, Edwardsville and others. Many representatives are participating in the forums, said Paul Ellis, economic development director of Fairview Heights.
“We have it in the area every year. ICSC has conferences and workshops all over the world. They are well-known for an event they have in May called RECon that is the biggest retail-oriented trade show in the country. That’s in Las Vegas. Fairview Heights goes every year,” Ellis said. “All the retailers, brokers and economic development people get together and do deals. It’s where your new retail stores come from.”
In addition to regular events in Chicago, there is also a trade show that rotates every three years among Kansas City, St. Louis and Omaha.
“That’s a moderate size show,” Ellis said. “Our event is more of a luncheon, with speakers and roundtable discussions.”
The local sessions have taken off in recent years. Host communities have also included Columbia, Edwardsville, Collinsville and O’Fallon.
The event in Fairview Heights runs roughly 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will feature a welcome from Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky and short addresses by others.
Later, the afternoon will be broken up into roundtable discussions on four different topics, presented two at a time in 30-minute sessions, with participants able to move between tables to hear what’s said.
The roundtables will focus on
Table 1: How retailers make site selection decisions
Table 2: REIT or wrong? Understanding today’s retail property owner.
Table 3: Financing the next generation of retail centers
Table 4: Leasing issues for charging stations
Table 5: Redesigning your community’s retail environment
Table 1 will feature a panel discussion looking at retailers who are expanding in Metro East. Bob Elkan, who builds and locates most of the Dollar General stores in Illinois, will participate as will the owners of the new Copper Fire Bar & Eatery in Belleville and Sugarfire Smoke House in O’Fallon.
“We’re also going to have the head of the St. Clair Square mall talk about their retail incubator program,” Ellis said.
Table 1 will be led by Dennis Maher, who works for Buxton, a company that does demographic and market analysis for many big retailers.
Table 2 will discuss real estate investment trusts, or REITs, which are companies that own, operate or finance real estate as investments. Ellis will lead that discussion.
Table 3 will be led by Gene Norber, of Economic Development Resources, and Tami Martens, of PACE Sage Capital, LLC. PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy, is a new form of financing energy efficiency or renewable energy upgrades, most notably HVAC systems. It is just starting in Illinois.
The topics are interesting enough and informative enough to be of use to almost everyone attending, Ellis said.
“Believe it or not those of us who are in the trenches every day don’t get exposed to all of this. I’ve been to three ISCS events this year already. I’ve learned some things,” Ellis said. “You get an old dog like me, if I’ve learned one new trick, it’s worthwhile.”
Those who are members of the American Institute of Community Planners may be able to earn Certification Maintenance credits for the event. AICP credits for the program have been applied for and are pending approval-
11 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Registration and Networking
11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Lunch
12:15 – 12:30 p.m. Program Welcome and Government Relations Update
Mark Kupsky, mayor of Fairview Heights; Tom Tyler, executive director, Metro East Chamber of Commerce, Swansea; Erika Kennett, Southwest Region Manager, Illinois Department of Commerce, Collinsville; Stacy Engles Wipfler, ICSC KS/MO state director, partner, Husch Blackwell LLP, St. Louis
12:30 to 1:30 p.m. What Works in Retail: Active Retailers Growing in this Economy
Moderator: Paul Ellis, CEcD, AICP, Program Chair, director of Economic Development, Fairview Heights
Panelists: Ranae Eichholz, owner, Copper Fire Bar & Eatery; Bob Elkan, principal, The Westmore Group, Inc.; Michael Hagen, general manager, St. Clair Square; Mike Johnson, owner, Sugarfire Smoke House; Dennis Maher, director, Buxton
1:30 to 1:45 p.m. Break
1:45 to 3 p.m. Round Table Discussions (two 30-minute sessions) - select from the following:
Table 1 – How Retailers Make Site Selection Decisions
Led by: Dennis Maher, Director, Buxton, Fort Worth, Texas
Table 2 – REIT or Wrong: Understanding Today’s Retail Property Owner
Led by: Paul Ellis, director of Economic Development, Fairview Heights
Table 3 – Financing the Next Generation of Retail Centers
Led by: Gene Norber, Economic Development Resources, and Tami Martens, PACE Sage Capital, LLC
Table 4 – All Charged Up – Leasing Issues for Charging Stations
Led by: Kelsie Mitchell, Attorney, Husch Blackwell, LLP, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Table 5 – Redesigning Your Community’s Retail Environment
Led by: Noel Fehr, Principal, Land Design Studio, Newtown, CT
3 to 3:45 p.m. Program adjourns, followed by networking
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
Poettker Construction Co. is sticking with its roots by starting construction on a new corporate headquarters and warehouse in the firm’s hometown of Breese.
Company officials took their time enjoying last month’s groundbreaking. They didn’t have the same luxury in 1986 when the company was applying for benefits under the Tax Reform Act to build the original headquarters.
“In business you have to take advantage of every financial maneuver you can,” said Charles Poettker, the company’s CEO and founder. “We had to be moved into that building before the end of 1986 in order to take advantage of accelerated depreciation. We moved in before the architect was finished designing it. We didn’t take the time for a groundbreaking ceremony.”
He added: “We’ve done so many groundbreakings in so many states, but this is the first one for ourselves.”
The new headquarters is going up just south of Poettker Construction Co. at 400 South Germantown Road, Breese. A large gathering was held July 9 at the Clinton County site, followed by a reception at nearby Breese Jaycee Park.
The new headquarters will be completed in the summer of 2019.
Erika Kennett, who is manager of the Southwest Area of the Illinois Department of Commerce, was present for the groundbreaking and read a congratulatory letter from the governor. She had assisted the company in applying for EDGE tax credits, a local economic development tool that aims to promote job creation in Illinois through the award of tax credits to eligible businesses.
Under the terms, the firm commits to a project that will include a capital investment of $4,744,959, the state said. The project will result in the creation of 10 full-time jobs above the existing 79 full-time jobs, the state said. The company considered St. Louis as an alternative expansion site, according to the state filing.
“I’m proud that the city of Breese could be a part of making sure this building was going to be built here,” Mayor Charles Hilmes said. “It means more homes in Breese, it means good-paying jobs and quality of life that every resident works hard for. Poettker Construction is part of that whole concept.”
Hilmes, a former junior high teacher, said he had various Poettker family members as students. All of them are now part of the construction company team.
State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, who said he knows Poettker from its early days of work for Casey’s and Walmart, said the company now does business in many states.
“It was important to keep Poettker in Breese,” he said.
Keith Poettker, president of the company, said the employees were the reasons for the company’s continued growth and it is right for them to be comfortable in their surroundings.
“Our employees operate at such a professional and excellent level that we’ve got to provide better accommodations. Without their excellence this would not be possible,” he said.
Poettker, which was launched in 1980 focusing on commercial and light industrial work, has built itself into a national player, performing major projects in retail, hospitals, schools and federal work, among others.
People with past criminal charges often have difficulty re-entering the workforce and building a better life for their families. Expunging or sealing a record can give people a second chance by removing that employment and housing barrier. Eligible individuals will get that second chance on Saturday, Aug. 25, in Granite City.