Almost one year later and more than $200,000 spent in research and design, city officials are zeroing in on initials plans for a downtown plaza.
The proposed multipurpose community plaza, planned for the area known as the “Santa Hut” lot at First and Vine streets, is part of the Destination O’Fallon plan, an economic initiative aimed at attracting businesses and residents. The plan includes a pavilion that would sit on the 1.7-acre space for events like a farmers market, festivals and entertainment.
The plaza plan was put on hold after questions arose regarding a high-pressure natural gas line that runs near the area of the planned pavilion.
But city officials were back at last month when they approved engineering and architectural design services in a $171,800 agreement with Millennia Professional Services, a consulting and construction firm with offices in St. Louis and Fairview Heights, among other Illinois locations. The firm will come up with ideas that would place the pavilion far enough away from the gas line, City Administrator Walter Denton said.
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“Moving it (the gas line) is not practical. The cost seems extreme, so there would have to be a pretty good reason to move it,” Denton said. “So, the architects and engineers are trying to design something around it or away from it so we don’t have to move it.”
Millennia will provide engineering, and construction management plans for the proposed pavilion, parking and roadway improvements, according to the agreement. The company partnered with Waterloo-based architecture firm Quadrant Design to develop architectural plans for the pavilion, which would be complete with restrooms under the company’s initial proposal.
Design proposals could be ready in the next few weeks, Denton said. When they come back, city administrators will review the proposals and develop options to present to the city council.
Construction could begin as soon as spring, Mayor Herb Roach said.
In December last year, the city approved a $64,750 deal with St. Louis-based design firm SWT to offer a plan for public outreach, signage and a concept proposal for connecting the adjacent block, known as “the Depot” to the plaza.
Upwards of 70 residents attended a meeting in January to share their suggestions, and a total of more than 1,300 contributed their ideas online, according to Community Development Director Ted Shekell.
One of the big reasons we moved over here is because we saw the city was willing to make significant investments and renovations downtown.
Jon Greenstreet, co-owner of The Bike Surgeon
The plaza will bring more parking to downtown, the mayor said, as well as attract more people to frequent businesses. The city is working with the railroad company and St. Clair County to develop more parking, possibly along the railroad’s easement or near the county’s transit center.
Jon Greenstreet, co-owner of The Bike Surgeon, says he “loves the idea” of the plaza, which under one scenario would be located across the railroad tracks from the bike shop.
“One of the big reasons we moved over here is because we saw the city was willing to make significant investments and renovations downtown,” Greenstreet said.
After the delay surrounding the gas line, Greenstreet said, “It’s very exciting to hear they’re back to looking at supporting it.”
The Bike Surgeon, previously located in Green Mount Crossing Shopping Center in Shiloh, relocated to downtown O’Fallon in spring 2017.
The city planned $1.5 million into its 2018 budget for the project, though the plaza could cost more or less, depending on what aldermen approve, the city administrator said. An increase in the city’s hotel-motel tax is expected to collect sufficient funds to pay for the $1.5 million in bonds sold to pay for the plaza project.
City officials approved a rate hike in November 2016 to increase the hotel-motel tax from 5 percent to 9 percent, with the additional 4 percent of revenue funding Destination O’Fallon projects. The city collected $815,000 in hotel-motel tax revenue in 2016.
Developing a multi-sports complex in the O’Fallon Family Sports Park is also part of the Destination O’Fallon plan. The overall project, including improvements to the sports park, is expected to cost up to $9.5 million.
For more information about the Downtown O’Fallon initiative, visit www.ofallonillinois.org/.