The Montclair eshopping center in Edwardsville may get its own business district to help fund a $2 million improvement, and the city may be creating a tax increment financing district along with it.
Montclaire includes a number of small shops like The Bike Shop, Edwardsville Flea Market, The Tot Spot and the Deals bargain store. But it also has some empty storefronts, and the building is showing its age.
Now city officials are working with owner R.L. Jones Properties to create a business district for the entire block, one that would add a 1-percent sales tax for the next 23 years. That would bring the sales tax in Montclaire up to 8.1 percent, the same as the Edwardsville Crossing business district on the other side of Troy Road that helped fund the Dierbergs plaza.
“(Montclaire) has come on some disrepair and it is difficult to attract new tenants,” said Edwardsville economic developer Walter Williams. “With the other shopping centers going in around Edwardsville, they need to spruce up to attract tenants.”
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The center is about 77 percent full, with the largest vacancies recently created with the closures of a rent-to-own furniture and appliance store and the Crushed Grapes wine store. Remaining tenants include Pantera’s Restaurant, El Maguey and the Illinois Secretary of State Driver’s License Bureau, among others.
“The owners feel if they improve the exterior conditions, it will make the center more attractive,” Williams said. It sits along Troy Road, one of the busiest streets in town, but it is an older section compared to the new developments further south along Troy Road or in Edwardsville Crossing. Williams could not say exactly how old the building was.
“We want to see them continue to be successful in Edwardsville,” said Edwardsville Mayor Hal Patton, who said he is very much in favor of the plan. “It is an older area of town, and people tend to drive by those areas if they’re not kept up.”
The plan includes new parking lots, roof work, facade improvements and other infrastructure details, which would include not only the main strip of stores, but the outbuilding that used to house Crushed Grapes and the Rapid Lube oil-change facility on the corner, Williams said.
The business district would simply add the 1-percent sales tax on to sales within that block, which then would be dedicated to assisting the building owner with the renovations. It’s a much simpler business district plan than most, Williams said, because the entire block is owned by one company. All the businesses are tenants, including Dan Vetter, owner of Edwardsville Flea Market. His business hosts more than 35 independent vendors selling antiques and collectibles in the Montclaire shopping center.
“I think it’s an excellent project that’s going to boost the economy in Edwardsville,” he said. “We’re all really excited about it.” He said he hopes that the higher sales tax won’t make a difference in sales, since they will be matching the Edwardsville Crossing rate, and it will be more than offset by the improvements.
But that isn’t all the city has planned for the middle section of town. Plans for a tax increment financing district are also in the works, stretching from the Keller Construction area on Center Grove through some of the older businesses along Plum Street and First Avenue to connect with Montclaire. Setting aside any increased property taxes within that district would allow the city to reinvest in infrastructure, bury utilities, create a streetscape environment and help development, Williams said.
“The idea is to connect all this and have the incentives available,” Patton said. “It’s important to be prepared and have the tools available for investors to attract to Edwardsville.... We do not want to neglect the middle part of the community.”
Williams hinted that a major retailer may have interest in property along those roads, but preexisting environmental contamination may make them hesitant. By having a TIF district in place, he said, funds would be available to help any such retailer remediate those properties and make them feasible for use.
Keller Construction in particular takes up a large amount of property along Center Grove Road, situated between two large retail districts and a movie theater. The construction company’s property sits behind a solid concrete wall, and stands out as an industrial use in a largely commercial and retail area.
“It’s a prime location,” Patton said. While no plans are currently on the books for Keller to move, Patton said they do own a significant property out by Route 255. “If someone comes along... we don’t know for sure, but it’s appropriate to be prepared,” he said.
The rest of the proposed TIF district is less well-known, off the main roads and often used by smaller businesses less dependent on foot traffic such as propane dealers or the Glen-Ed Food Pantry. One business only about a block from Troy Road is closing this fall: Bill’s Montclaire Floral, shutting down after more than 40 years in Edwardsville. The owner could not be immediately reached for comment, but the going-out-of-business sale has already begun.
A tax increment financing district is often a harder sell than a business district, as the latter only affects those who shop in the affect area. In a TIF district, any increase in property taxes is set aside in a special fund instead of going to the other taxing bodies. Most affected are schools, such as Edwardsville District 7, which receive the bulk of property taxes. Patton said he is meeting with new superintendent Lynda Andre this week to discuss the issue.
“We’ve been wise about incentives in the past, and I know the district has appreciated the growth that we’ve brought,” Patton said. “We will have more conversations with the school district.”
The business district is proceeding to a public hearing, the date of which has not yet been set. For the TIF district, the city has put out a request for proposals to do the initial study. Then a committee is formed of representatives from the various taxing bodies, who may weigh in at public hearings before the final decision is made.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at email@example.com or 618-239-2507.