Officials: Collinsville primed for development, new businesses

News-DemocratJune 18, 2014 

COLLINSVILLE - Sewer line expansions, road improvements and streetscape work in the Main Street area have Collinsville primed for new business development, officials said Wednesday.

The city's economic development staff held their first "state of the city" address Wednesday, focusing on business development opportunities within the city. Listings were provided for vacant buildings, and economic developer Erika Kennett gave an overview of areas that are primed for construction, especially where the city has extended sewer lines and opened up new territories.

With more than $8 million in road improvements and bridge work being done within the city, Kennett pointed out that 79 percent of the funding for those infrastructure improvements came from the federal government. And the city recently began building a $17.3 million water plant to replace its aging water treatment facility.

"Like every other community, we're trying to be good stewards of taxpayer money," Kennett said.

Recent sewer line extensions have opened up new territories, both for residential development and commercial real estate, Kennett said. "We're looking for businesses that don't fit the mold," she said.

So far in 2014, building permits for $2 million in new residential construction have been issued, Kennett said.

Another $800,000 will be invested in a new commercial development in the former Apex Building on Main Street. The building was donated to the city when it fell into disrepair, and the city renovated it and sold it to recoup its costs. Now it will soon be the site of a new restaurant with five high-end loft apartments above it, Kennett said.

In addition, Collinsville is joining with five other municipalities to apply for an enterprise zone, creating another incentive for development without impacting property taxes, Kennett said.

"Collinsville is not only a great place to start a business, it's a great place to expand and grow your business, and keep your roots here," she said.

Uptown coordinator Leah Joyce focused on the streetscape improvements, now in phase 3 with renovations around City Hall and a new parking lot under construction at the site of the now-closed post office. The city developed "pocket parks" in patches of green space around the newly-straightened Illinois 159, which Joyce said was intended to go beyond landscape to create entryways into the Main Street business district.

Phase 4 of the streetscape project will begin next year, Joyce said: extending the new sidewalks and aesthetic improvements along Main Street east of Illinois 159.

"Business owners there felt like they were cut off from Main Street," Joyce said.

Also pending: rehabilitation of Clay Street, which runs parallel to Main Street in the downtown area.

"This is so important because before we started the streetscape project, Main Street was practically dead," Joyce said, speaking of vacant storefronts, very little foot traffic and fleeing businesses. Now, she said, there are always people on Main Street, new businesses are opening and older businesses are reinvesting in their property.

"We're dedicated to making the city a desirable place to live and a great place for business to grow," Joyce said.

The meeting was attended by civic leaders, business owners, real estate and construction firms and others involved in economic development. Kennett also announced the launch of the city's new economic development website: destinationcollinsville.com.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 618-239-2507.

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