The final significant hurdle for the proposed Tax Increment Financing district for the Hofbrauhaus brew pub and hotel complex on Illinois 15 across from the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows is expected to be on May 26 when the full City Council votes on the deal.
As a precursor to that vote, a mandatory public hearing on Monday night drew a light turnout as aldermen heard from supporters and detractors of the plan.
A majority of aldermen have already expressed support for the developers, who stand to reap $15.69 million in tax rebates from the city, which includes $6 million in TIF funding. They also could get a sales tax rebate of $1.25 million for construction material purchased in Illinois. The project was initially estimated to cost $50 million but it may creep up to $60 million.
Mayor Mark Eckert said if aldermen have questions about the project for the developers – Chuck Keller and his son, Chane Keller of Effingham, and their partner Forrest Langenfeld of Centralia – he will arrange a meeting with them before May 26.
Supporters say the project will raise Belleville’s profile in the region by attracting the Hofbrauhaus, which would be the only one in the area and the eighth one in the country, and it would boost the economic outlook for the Shrine. Critics have questioned the need for another TIF in a city that currently has 18 such districts and the city’s vetting of the developers.
Ward 8 Alderman Roger Wigginton said the developers told him they have already spent $1 million in studies, legal costs and other expenses in planning this project, which also is expected to include a convention center, a gas station with convenience store and four other restaurants.
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate is the religious order that oversees the Shrine and would lease the land to the developers, who say they need the tax incentives for their financing.
Officials with the Shrine told city leaders Monday that this project would benefit the Shrine as well the entire Illinois 15 corridor.
The Kellers have told Shrine leaders that current Shrine employees who work in the Shrine’s restaurant and hotel would be offered jobs in the new complex. Also, if the Shrine gets out of the hotel and restaurant business, it would allow the Shrine to focus on the “core ministry” of helping the “poorest of the poor,” said Chris Diel, the guest services and marketing manager for the Shrine.
“The Shrine will be able to benefit from this development in that there will be a hotel across the way where pilgrims can be housed,” said the Rev. Tom Ovalle, director of the Shrine. He said the Shrine visitors would also patronize the restaurants in the complex.
Ovalle credited the Kellers with having the “vision” to develop such a project on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.
“I have found Mr. Keller and his family and associates to be forthright and upfront in the information that has been asked of them and I never felt that they or any of their partners or associates have tried to hide any information or evade any questions.”
Four members of the public spoke after the comments from the Shrine officials.
Lillian Scheidner, a former alderwoman, called the project “wrong.”
She believes city officials should try to attract developers to work on existing buildings and shopping centers in the Belleville.
“There have been too many vacant buildings for too long,” Schneider said. “If we don’t do something now, it will never get done because nobody will want to develop in the old part when they can go to the new part.”
Michael Hagberg, a former City Council candidate, raised a question about the lack of information released about the future public spending that is in the TIF budget. William H. Bremen, a city resident, said the city needs to release more information about the developers. “We have had very little information about anything,” he said.
Rose Wilson, also a city resident, urged the aldermen to support the development.
The Keller family first entered the hotel business more than 50 years ago in Effingham, where they currently have a convention center. The family has an interest in hotels affiliated with brands such as Radisson, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza and Country Inn.
The family has either full or partial ownership in nine hotels: Four are in Minnesota, three in Illinois and one each in Iowa and North Dakota.
Here’s a breakdown of the tax incentives offered to the developers, who formed a Missouri corporation called Missionary Ventures for this project:
▪ The TIF would give property tax rebates of $6 million, which would take an estimated 16 years to accrue.
▪ The business district allows a 1 percent sales tax to be collected at the complex. The developers would receive $7.13 million and the tax would end when this amount is reached.
▪ The developers would receive $2.56 million in hotel tax rebates over a 16-year period.
These three incentives total $15.69 million.