Belleville

Will taxes go up in another blighted metro-east shopping center?

Shopland center may get a facelift in west Belleville

Belleville is considering a plan that would allow an extra sales tax in the Shopland shopping center. The money would be used to renovate the site, which includes an Ace Hardware store and Jefferson's Restaurant.
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Belleville is considering a plan that would allow an extra sales tax in the Shopland shopping center. The money would be used to renovate the site, which includes an Ace Hardware store and Jefferson's Restaurant.

After granting tax incentives to spur the redevelopment of the Market Place Shopping Center on West Main Street, Belleville leaders are considering a plan that could provide tax incentives for renovation of Shopland, another aging shopping center on the westside.

Shopland meets the state’s definition of “blighted” and would qualify to be in a business district that would allow an extra 1 percent sales tax be collected from shoppers and then permit a developer to use this money to renovate the shopping center, according to a study.

The City Council on Oct. 17 is scheduled to vote whether to accept the study from St. Louis-based Economic Development Resources. On Wednesday, the Economic Development & Annexation Committee unanimously recommended that the full council accept the study.

We’re looking at a prime piece of real estate here that’s so underutilized.

Ward 8 Alderman Roger Wigginton said of the Shopland shopping center

Shopland is at the intersection of Foley Drive and 70th and West Main streets. The Hometown Ace Hardware store at 6938 W. Main St. is the only tenant in the main building and Jefferson’s Restaurant is located in a separate building in the center.

Customers at these two businesses currently pay 8.1 percent in sales tax. Owners at both businesses have said they would support the extra tax plan in exchange for renovations at the center, which once featured the Shopland grocery store.

Earlier this year, the City Council granted $2.49 million in tax incentives for the redevelopment of the Market Place shopping center that once had the Mad Pricer grocery store in the 6400 block of West Main Street. The Mad Pricer building is now being converted into a brewery by Todd Kennedy, owner 4204 Main Street Brewing Co. in Belleville.

Ward 8 Alderman Roger Wigginton told the Economic Development committee that the tax incentives are a tool that can be used to bring life to old strip centers like Market Place and Shopland and then generate more revenue for the city.

“You’ve got to spend money to make money,” Wigginton told the panel.

“We’re looking at a prime piece of real estate here that’s so underutilized,” Wigginton said of Shopland, which is located near his clothing store on West Main Street.

You’ve got to spend money to make money.

Roger Wigginton

Annissa McCaskill, director of Economic Development, Planning & Zoning Department for the city, said she believes “this main corridor along Main Street is going to look vastly different this time next year as opposed to how it looks right now.”

“We’re very excited because what we see is that people aren’t just looking at the outer edges of the city on the west or on the east, they are actually doing some major renovation and redevelopment in the central corridor,” she said. “We think that commercial is just the first phase, we also think that we’ll also get some strong redevelopment on the residential phase following after what we’re doing with the commercial.”

The Economic Development committee also discussed whether the city could do more to force property owners to keep their sites up to code and prevent them from falling into disrepair.

The first phase of a study by Economic Development Resources highlighted problems at Shopland, including these:

▪  The main building lacks adequate fire alarm and fire suppression systems.

▪  The exterior walls of the building are cracked from the foundation to the roof.

▪  The roofs of the main building and the restaurant need repairs.

▪  Nine light standards in the parking lot were not working in August.

▪  Multiple unused air conditioning units on the roof of the main building are rusted.

▪  The parking lot needs repairs.

▪  The center is at risk of mine subsidence.

These conditions have “lessened the attractiveness” of the center and contribute to the excessive vacant commercial spaces” in the center, according to the study.

In August, the city agreed to pay Economic Development Resources $30,000 for the study. City officials said this cost would be recovered from a developer who signs a development agreement to use the extra sales tax revenue raised in the business district.

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