Metro-East News

Downtown Belleville’s biggest retailer wants to sell part of its building for $450,000

Ben's in Belleville celebrating 40 years

John Conkright talks about the origin of Ben's and its future. The store in downtown Belleville, Illinois, is celebrating four decades of service to metro-east shoppers.
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John Conkright talks about the origin of Ben's and its future. The store in downtown Belleville, Illinois, is celebrating four decades of service to metro-east shoppers.

Five years after making a deal with the city to improve the property, the largest retailer in downtown Belleville wants to sell a portion of its storefront.

Ben’s, a locally-owned store on East Main Street, recently put two parts of the store, 116 and 120 E. Main St., on the market for $450,000.

Real estate firm, Barber Murphy Group, will handle the sale.

The store, which carries crafts, floral, gift items, toys, home decor and clothing, decided to have a liquidation sale to prepare for the change.

Ben’s will not lose departments within the store as a result of the sale, according to store manager Beth Wamble.

In a statement, the 41-year-old store said selling a portion of the property was “in the best interest of Ben’s as well as the future of the downtown community.”

“We bought this property with the intention to do this development ourselves,” the company wrote, “but have decided that our time is better spent doing what we know best and leaving this project for someone with more experience in downtown development.”

Back in 2013, the city approved a development deal to help Ben’s improve the property.

Ben’s owner John Conkright’s responsibilities included investing $450,000 in renovating the property; making at least $300,000 in new sales subject to sales tax; retaining five jobs and creating one new job in the first year; and staying at the site for 10 years.

The city would allow an estimated $15,000 in sales tax abatement for the remodeling; rebate 50 percent of incremental property tax directly related to the improvements; and reimburse 20 percent of the cost of facade improvements for three facades.

Ben’s remains in compliance with all provisions of the development agreement with the city, Conkright’s daughter Wamble said.

“The building that we have listed has an excellent loft development potential,” the company stated. “And we are hoping that a developer with the expertise in this kind of development will agree and develop the property.”

Reporter Mike Koziatek contributed to this report.

Cara Anthony: 618-239-2471, @CaraRAnthony

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