Metro-East News

Belleville approved $737K for two development projects that are behind schedule

New homes in west Belleville

Developer plans to build new homes in west Belleville along West Main Street.
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Developer plans to build new homes in west Belleville along West Main Street.

Belleville city leaders have spent $737,000 to help kick-start two westside housing projects that have missed construction goals, including one development featuring homes and professional office buildings that was supposed to begin in 2016.

The original Parkway West proposal called for homes worth $500,000 to $1 million and office buildings near Belleville West High School off Frank Scott Parkway.

The city has spent $502,000 to extend a sewer line along 11th Street to reach the Parkway West site, which is currently a farm field. Also, the city paid about $255,000 to extend sewers to a 10-acre parcel adjacent to the south side of the Parkway West site.

Todd Keller, the managing partner of the Parkway West project, said his investors have paid a contractor to handle a portion of the costs of extending sewers to the 50-acre site but he declined to release that amount.

The other proposed westside housing development is called The Renaissance. It features garden villas at the site of the demolished Rob Nora Apartments at 7009 W. Main St.

Construction was expected to start earlier this year but the developer, Adam Hill, said he had to delay the project to 2019 because between January and August, he had to help his family move forward after the deaths of his father, mother and his mother-in-law.

The city granted Hill $235,000 in TIF funds for the demolition and acquisition of the Rob Nora site and the Forest Hills apartment complex at 8512 W. Main St.

Mayor Mark Eckert said he remains bullish on the future of the two westside projects despite the delays.

Eckert said the sewer line extensions are needed to spark economic development off Frank Scott Parkway.

Construction recently began on The Villas of Holly Brook, which is a $9 million assisted living and memory care center across the road from the Parkway West project.

“We’re positioned to grow out there,” Eckert said. “We’re still remaining optimistic.”

Parkway West update

Keller, who is not related to the Keller family that opened the Hofbräuhaus German restaurant and brewery off Illinois 15, said he is still seeking clients for the proposed professional office buildings.

He said the plan is to build eight office buildings instead of the six originally proposed. Construction won’t start until he gets a promise from someone who will own or lease the building.

Keller said he plans to start a new marketing campaign after Jan. 1. He is looking for lawyers, insurance companies and medical professionals to move to Parkway West. The site will not be open to retail businesses.

After Keller gets the office buildings completed, he plans to work on the upscale subdivision proposed for the land behind the office buildings.

“We’re still in an economy that’s not exactly where it was before and people are just taking their time to make major decisions,” Keller said. “People are a lot more cautious when they make major investments.”

When he first announced the project in 2015, Keller valued the site at more than $50 million.

Todd Keller discusses plans for an upscale subdivision in Belleville off Frank Scott Parkway in this file video from October 2015.

The annexation agreement between Keller’s group and the city calls for the homes to be worth at least $500,000. The agreement also requires the city to extend sewer lines to the site and it does not have a deadline for Keller to build the homes.

Keller said The Villas of Holly Brook project has prompted interest in his plan.

“We’ve had a few more calls that we didn’t have prior to that so I think that’s good to get some activity going,” he said.

“I think the investment the city made in the sewer extension is based on the fact that once we build the buildings, the revenue that’s generated will more than reimburse their investment, long term,” Keller said. “They’re investing in the future the same as we are.”

Renaissance construction

Hill hopes to break ground by April 1 on The Renaissance homes.

He wanted to start last spring but then had to put the project on hold after the three deaths in his family.

“I made the conscious decision to stop,” Hill said. “I was just not in the game.”

The plan calls for two buildings with four units each. The homes will have two-car garages and basements.

“We’ll have to kind of re-engage with a lot of people that were interested,” Hill said. “And some of those people may have found other opportunities and we’re happy for them. We’re sorry we couldn’t deliver in 2018 but then you kind of get to hit the reset button.”

Hill values his project at $2 million.

The condemned Rob Nora Apartments were demolished to make way for The Renaissance homes. Belleville city firefighters were allowed to burn down parts of the building as part of training exercises.

Different parts of the Belleville apartment complex were burned to help the Belleville Fire Department with training in December 2017.

Dirt excavated from the Rob Nora site will be used to fill the site at 8512 W. Main St., where Hill plans to build two single-family homes.

Hill said he relishes the idea of taking a rundown sites such as Rob Nora and Forest Hills into new homes, which have not been built on this section of West Main Street in decades. He also has helped redevelop the shopping center where the former Mad Pricer grocery store was located in the 6400 block of West Main Street. Belleville granted Hill $275,000 in TIF funds to renovate the Market Place Shopping Center. The Mad Pricer site is now owned by 4204 Main Street Brewing Co, which established a brewery and banquet center in the old grocery store last year.

“We have a really great community and we have a great community because of the people,” Hill said. “But what we have is we have a lot of aging building stock, both residential and commercial but the bones are still really pretty good.

“I really like the idea of having some preservation. That doesn’t mean I’m a pure preservationist, but I really do like the idea of kind of making something that’s just not a productive asset productive again.”

Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an assistant editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and grew up in St. Louis.