Metro-East News

Former Belleville Mad Pricer site is ‘blighted,’ study says

The Belleville City Council approved economic development measures Monday night, including acceptance of a study that says the shopping center that once had the Mad Pricer grocery store at 6401 W. Main St. is “blighted” and qualifies to be in a special business district.

If the city in the future approves an agreement with a potential developer, shoppers could be charged up to an extra 1 percent sales tax in the shopping center.

A developer has shown interest in the site but Mayor Mark Eckert said it is too early in the process to release the firm’s name. The deadline to submit a proposal to develop the site is May 23.

Money raised by the 1 percent sales tax could be used as an incentive for a developer. Shoppers currently pay 8.1 percent sales tax in the shopping center.

“We’ve been trying to redevelop 6401 (W. Main) probably the entire time I’ve been mayor,” Eckert said. He added that city officials have had several in-depth conversations with the potential developer and the business district study was commissioned because, “We felt like there was a sincere desire to lift that whole shopping center up.”

The proposed business district does not include the Round Table Cafe that recently opened in the front of the shopping center in the former Hardee’s building.

St. Louis-based Economic Development Resources conducted the feasibility study for Belleville.

The firm’s report says the shopping center is considered “blighted” for several reasons, including:

▪  A large portion of the center is subject to mine subsidence.

▪  The roof is damaged throughout, allowing water to infiltrate through open holes.

▪  The parking lot and sidewalks have areas that are cracked and crumbling.

Superior Bank of Hazelwood, Mo., is listed as the owner of the shopping center, according to St. Clair County property records.

In other business:

▪  Bank of America was granted permission to build a new branch at 1911 Carlyle Ave. The bank has two other locations in the city: 23 Public Square and 330 W. Main St.

▪  The council voted 14-2 to approve a development agreement with Allan Leving of St. Louis. He received tax breaks to demolish the building at 4529 W. Main St. and replace it with a new financial services building. The development agreement calls for Leving to invest about $670,000 and retain two full-time employees in the first year of operation and create two additional jobs within the second year of operation.

In exchange, the property taxes on the site would be abated 50 percent within approved taxing districts for five years. This represents an estimated annual savings of $6,923, or about $35,000 over five years. Also, the city would allow the builder an exemption for state sales tax on construction material purchased for the project. This would save Leving an estimated $16,200.

The new building would host two businesses: Leving’s current business, Title Loan Co., which he said offers “installment loans,” and a currency exchange. Leving said he has 18 branches in the metro St. Louis area.

Ward 1 Alderman Joe Hazel and Ward 3 Alderman Scott Tyler voted against the agreement. Before the vote, Hazel noted that this type of business does not produce sales tax revenue for the city. Tyler said would like to see development on that corner but cannot support giving tax breaks to a business that charges interest rates in which customers “get stuck” paying much more than they originally borrowed.

In response, Eckert said the city staff forwarded the plan to aldermen because other businesses near the Title Loan site have made improvements, in particular the 4204 Main Street Brewing Co., and the city wants to maintain that momentum.

One of the latest expansions at 4204 Main Street Brewing was on the agenda Monday night. Aldermen approved the brew pub’s request for a special permit to use a vacant lot adjacent to the brewery for outdoor dining. One requirement calls for all outside music to end by 10 p.m.