Maybe we should start by referring to the building at 16 S. Illinois St. as the Hotel Belleville instead of the Meredith Home.
One was a swank, art deco joint where starting in 1931 a nightclub served the city’s cocktail set, where your wedding was an uptown event and where you steered those out-of-town guests. The other was an old folks home.
So start with seeing that potential from the past, and maybe the right person comes along who can supplement the vision with some of their own cash.
It is disappointing that Belleville city leaders again find themselves at square one with the very visible vacancy on our Public Square that cost them $487,500 in 2010 when the Belleville Catholic Diocese closed the home. City leaders just rejected a developer who wanted the city to let it buy the building on the installment plan. They are starting over with their search for the right developer.
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Another developer wanted the building for free, plus $12 million in incentives, plus a parking garage from taxpayers.
“I still think that building is very important and vital to our square,” Ward 8 Alderman Roger Wigginton said during a recent Economic Development and Annexation Committee meeting. “We no longer have to roll over and give the farm away. I think eventually we’ll get somebody.”
That is a reasonable view. The economy is improving and location means a lot, so the Hotel Belleville can still be an asset in the heart of downtown.
The ideas for artists’ lofts, retail, dining, offices, boutique hotel and rooftop attraction may all have merit. The parking issue remains, but some combination of adjacent properties and existing parking can solve that.
City leaders have economic development tools, such as tax credits, that can rehab this historic building. They do not need to give away the farm to make the Hotel Belleville work.