Belleville

Belleville City Council approves The EDGE’s $3.36M expansion plan

The EDGE defends tax incentives for new expansion project

The EDGE entertainment venue's architectural and site plans for a $3.36 million expansion that includes an indoor go-kart track were approved by the Belleville, IL, City Council Tuesday night in Southern Illinois, near St. Louis, MO.
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The EDGE entertainment venue's architectural and site plans for a $3.36 million expansion that includes an indoor go-kart track were approved by the Belleville, IL, City Council Tuesday night in Southern Illinois, near St. Louis, MO.

Before Belleville aldermen unanimously approved his architectural and site plans for a $3.36 million expansion at The EDGE, Keith Schell stood up during the public comment session Tuesday night to say his property taxes will increase by $30,000 despite tax incentives granted for the project.

Schell was responding to City Clerk Dallas Cook’s column that criticized tax breaks given to local businesses, including The EDGE. Cook, who is running for mayor in the April 4 election, submitted his column in the BND on Sunday.

“We’ve never received a dime, not one nickel,” Schell said. “How can you say it’s any income being taken out of Belleville when if we didn’t do the project, there’s no revenue collected whatsoever? So I consider that as tax neutral.”

We have invested a lot of money.

Keith Schell, co-owner of The EDGE

“We have invested a lot of money,” Schell said. “Let’s think about the math, Mr. Cook. We’re not taking any money from the city.”

Cook, who sat on dais as Schell spoke, cordially met with Schell after the meeting.

Cook said he fully supports The EDGE as a business. “I grew up there,” he said as he noted he lived near there. “Nobody loves it more than me,” he said.

But he opposes any tax breaks for businesses. “Government shouldn’t have any involvement,” he said. Cook said his column was not trying to be negative against businesses but “negative to government interference.”

In August, the council approved tax incentives worth up to $201,000 for The EDGE project.

Schell and his wife, Mary Dahm-Schell, want to construct a new building for an indoor track about 600 feet long for electric go-karts, bumper cars, bowling lanes and a 4D theater. The EDGE already features five movie theaters, a restaurant, bar, laser tag arena and game room.

Construction could begin on the expansion as soon as this week.

Schell said the project is scheduled to be finished in September.

Here’s a breakdown of the tax incentives for The EDGE:

▪  An exemption from state sales tax on construction materials purchased for the expansion and remodeling project at 701 South Belt West. This could save The EDGE an estimated $152,685, according to a redevelopment agreement. Since the city certified that the business is located in the city’s enterprise zone, The EDGE qualifies for this tax break.

▪  A 50 percent rebate on incremental property taxes directly related to the improvements for five years. This could save The EDGE up to $9,684 annually for a total of $48,420. However, Schell said the annual savings would more likely be about $4,600 for a total of $23,000 if his property taxes increase $30,000 as he estimates.

Schell said he currently pays about $51,000 in property taxes, up from $5,000 in 1998.

In exchange for the tax breaks, The EDGE is required to invest at least $3.36 million, retain the 45 jobs the business currently supports, create 10 additional jobs within the first year of the expansion and three more jobs in the second year of operation and commit to annual sales subject to sales tax of at least $600,000.

Also on Tuesday, the city vacated part of Union Avenue to make way for the expansion. A turnaround will be built at the end of Union Avenue where it ends at The EDGE.

In other business

The City Council took the following action Tuesday night:

▪  Approved a $1 million contract with Plocher Construction Co. to make sewer line improvements to the B Street pump station.

▪  Appointed Ramona Johnson to serve a two-year term on the city’s Human Relations Commission.

▪  Gave a plaque to Chuck Schaeffer, who is retiring as director of public works after 11.5 years.

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