By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
    The new Regional Multimodal Transportation Center and substantial remodeling to nearby Alton Square have the city rolling into the new year on a high note.
    The train station is now seeing full parking lots, Mayor Brant Walker said.
    “It’s not what it will mean, it’s what it already is meaning. They expect the ridership to roughly go from 60,000 to 100,000,” he said.
    The plans for the station triggered the completion in 2016 of the nearby Hampton Inn & Suites St. Louis/Alton, valued at around $7 million. It is within view of the new train station on Homer Adams Parkway, which was dedicated in September.
    Alton will see “tremendous private investment” along the commercial corridor, the mayor said, including a $20 million planned renovation to Alton Square Mall. The teardown of the Macy’s store is well underway and marks the start of the redevelopment.
    “That’s been the plan since they purchased the mall, which is what’s nice about the Hull (Property) Group,” he said. “They asked if Macy’s and JC Penney’s would stay or go. Penney’s is staying, Macy’s wanted to go. So, they got control of Macy’s property (Macy’s owned their own land at the mall). After that, they laid their plan out and they haven’t deviated.”
    The plan is to renovate the mall on the top floor first. Walker said there is interest in the property at the front of the mall, which faces Homer Adams Parkway, a high-volume traffic corridor.
    He predicts the redevelopment will take 24 months.
    Some 30 acres of land can still be developed at the multimodal station site, part of the former Wadlow golf course property. It will soon to be submitted for bids. The city hopes to draw interest in mixed commercial use, with retail and destination shopping at the center of it.
    “Retail sales in Alton are still incredibly strong,” Walker said of the past year. “We were over a half a billion dollars again last year, when the rest of the country had its worst year ever for retail closures.”
    The Regional Multimodal Transportation Center took most of the last six years to come together, starting with the “big effort” put forth to get the grant money under former Mayor Tom Hoechst’s administration, Walker said.
    The total cost was $23 million with a $13.8 million federal TIGER grant, $6 million from the Illinois Department of Transportation, $2 million from the city and approximately $1 million from Madison County Transit District, he said.
    The old station off College Avenue was torn down in December. Union Pacific Railroad, which owns the land, is choosing not to do anything else with the site. The tracks are part of the high-speed rail network that should come on line once new locomotives and passenger cars are completed.