Belleville considering land purchase, upgrade plan

News-DemocratJune 2, 2013 

— The City Council on Monday will decide whether to spend $260,000 to buy two lots next to Ben's downtown in exchange for improvements to the former Nice Twice shop.

According to the proposed business development agreement, the city would buy the property at 18 S. High St. for $185,000 from the John D. Conkright Trust. The city would make payments over two years.

The city would also pay to demolish the building, which houses the Sukha Yoga Center, to expand the adjacent city parking lot.

The city is also looking to buy two parcels that make up the alley and parking spaces on the other side of the yoga business. For these two lots, the city would pay Conkright $75,000 over two years.

Conkright owns Ben's at 112 E. Main St.

In return, Conkright would make a private investment of at least $500,000 to buy, remodel and improve the facade of the buildings at 116 and 120 E. Main St., which most recently was the Nice Twice thrift shop.

Conkright must make improvements by Feb. 28, 2014. The business also has to make new sales subject to sales tax of at least $300,000 in the first year; retain five jobs; create one job in the first year; and remain and operate at the site for 10 years.

The city would allow an estimated $15,000 in sales tax abatement for the remodeling; rebate 50 percent of incremental property tax directly related to the improvements; and reimburse 20 percent of the cost of facade improvements for three facades.

The agreement also requires the city to reserve six parking spaces on another lot off Washington Street for employees of Ben's.

The city also grants truck access on the city's parking lot for deliveries to Ben's.

Aldermen of the Economic Development and Annexation Committee and the Finance Committee held a joint meeting on Thursday to discuss the proposal.

In public participation, Belleville residents Rick Brown and Michael Hagberg spoke against the agreement, calling it a "hush hush" and "back room" deal, and said residents are tired of city leaders giving tax increment financing incentives in such a manner and rushing the deals through.

The committees discussed the deal in executive session for about 1.5 hours before forwarding the proposal to the full City Council for a vote.

Conkright spoke to city leaders in executive session but did not make any statements in open session.

The City Council meets at 7 p.m. Monday in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 101 S. Illinois St.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.

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