BELLEVILLE — A developer interested in the former downtown YMCA building will make a presentation to city officials on Wednesday.
The Economic Development & Annexation Commission agenda indicates there will be discussion and a possible motion to approve a redevelopment project at 15 N. First St., which originally was the Belleville Turner Hall.
Mayor Mark Eckert said city officials did not identify the developer at his request.
"He wanted a chance to deliver his pitch to the committee before it gets piecemealed out," Eckert said.
The commission will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council Chambers at Belleville City Hall, 101 S. Illinois St.
The developer will distribute materials and make a presentation at the meeting. Officials will take questions from the public after the presentation, Eckert said.
Commission members will then take a vote on whether to forward the project to the full City Council for approval.
Eckert said the developer expressed interest in the site in September and further discussed the proposal with Economic Development and Planning Manager Emily Fultz in November.
"It's got some real potential," Eckert said.
Eckert said he met with this developer before the Rev. Larry Rice expressed interest in turning the building into a homeless shelter.
Eckert has said he is opposed to a shelter downtown because it would be unfair to business owners in the area. Instead, the city is working with area leaders to address the homelessness issue on a regional level.
Rice, of the New Life Evangelistic Center in St. Louis, wants metro-east leaders to do more to help the homeless.
Rice said he finds the timing of the developer's presentation, a couple months before the April 9 election, suspicious.
"This is a very hot election issue," Rice said. "They let this go on and on and now they speak right before an election? It's a diversion."
The building has been vacant since 2006 when the YMCA moved to South Illinois Street.
In January, Rice filed petitions to the St. Clair County Circuit Clerk's office to get a referendum on the ballot so voters could decide whether the building should be turned into a homeless shelter.
Rice said he learned too late that he was supposed to file with the city of Belleville but the Circuit Clerk did not return the $246 filing fee. St. Clair County Clerk Bob Delaney could not be reached for comment.
Rice said he is seeking legal counsel but most likely the referendum will not be on the ballot.
Regardless, Rice said he will continue to work to preserve the historical building. If the city has found a viable developer -- who will not merely turn the space into a parking lot -- Rice said he will continue to seek another location in Belleville fit for a shelter.
Eckert estimates it would take $3 million to $4 million to stabilize and rehabilitate the 40,000- square-feet building. Demolition would cost about $500,000.
Eckert said his estimate is based on the cost to renovate 510 W. Main St., which houses the city's mechanic and Human Resources and Parks and Recreation departments. The city paid about $1.5 million to $1.7 million for the 26,000-square-feet space; Turner Hall is larger and has asbestos and mold problems.
Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.