Natalie Worrell can’t wait for the wrecking ball to get to her west Belleville neighborhood.
Worrell lives near the condemned Forest Hills apartment complex at 8512 W. Main St. that developer Adam Hill plans to tear down and replace with two single-family homes with a base price of $165,000 each. Hill also plans to demolish the Rob Nora apartment complex at 7009 W. Main St. and build eight garden villas worth $185,000 each.
To kick-start the project he values at $2.65 million, Hill has requested a $235,000 TIF 3 grant from the city. Aldermen are scheduled to vote on the plan Monday night.
“It’s good news for the neighborhood,” said Worrell, who has lived on South 85th Street for over 12 years and grew up on the west end.
Worrell described her experience with people who lived in the Forest Hills apartments:
“In all the time that I’ve lived here, we’ve seen and heard a lot of fights and yelling and chaos at all hours. I know I’ve personally called the police probably half a dozen times.”
Worrell’s neighbor, Sydney Bevineau, has lived on South 85th Street for about three years, and she also is glad the 22-unit Forest Hills complex will be razed.
“I think it’s a phenomenal plan,” Bevineau said. “The building looks pretty bad. It’s an eyesore, especially when you drive down the street. It’s an embarrassment, actually, for the neighborhood.”
Worrell said the TIF grant, if approved, would be money well spent.
“To me, it’s an investment in the community and in this end of town,” she said. “We’ve been on the fence about staying or going for the last couple of years and improvements like that make us lean towards wanting to stay on this end of town. I grew up here.”
Hill previously received tax incentives from Belleville to renovate the Market Place Shopping Center, where 4204 Main Street Brewing Co. recently bought the former Mad Pricer grocery store from Hill in the 6400 block of West Main and opened a new brewery, banquet center and taproom.
In the Market Place deal, Hill received a $275,000 TIF grant, and so far he has received $6,600 in sales tax revenue from the extra 1 cent sales charged at businesses in the shopping center, according to city records. Including the grant, the tax incentives are capped at about $2.5 million.
Now Hill is turning his sights further down West Main Street.
“In the next five years, it is going to be a much different west Belleville than it was previously,” Hill said.
Hill said he’s received “a lot of interest” from prospective home buyers.
The TIF funding is “absolutely” needed for the project to get off the ground, Hill said. He added that as a taxpayer he wants TIF money to be used “responsibly.”
Mayor Mark Eckert supports Hill’s plan, as did all the aldermen who voted on it during committee meetings. The City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at Lindenwood University-Belleville at 2600 W. Main St. and decide whether to give Hill the grant.
“It’s no secret, those properties have had a long history of deterioration,” Eckert said. “They’ve been in court many times.”
Last year, a judge ruled the Rob Nora conditions were “dangerous to the lives” of the residents, and a week after his ruling, the ceiling of one of the Rob Nora units fell down on a resident. All residents were forced to leave the complex last year, and all of the Forest Hills residents were forced to leave earlier this month.
“It got to the point where they were becoming a detriment to the property values in west Belleville,” Eckert said. “This is absolutely a dream come true, and it’s going to do nothing but lift the property values and the spirit of west Belleville.”
Along with the new brewery, Eckert noted there have been other west-end developments in recent months:
▪ The Shopland Plaza and the anchor tenant, Ace Hardware, have been renovated
▪ A 24-hour Walmart Supercenter is planned for South 74th Street and Illinois 15
▪ Construction on the Hofbräuhaus German restaurant and brewery has sped up this summer
▪ Althoff Catholic High School is about to open a new athletic field
▪ A Fresenius dialysis clinic is under construction next to the Market Place Shopping Center
Eckert said “green grass” would be better than the current apartment buildings that Hill will demolish.
For Vivian Mengersen, who lives directly behind the 32-unit Rob Nora complex, Hill’s rebuilding project brings a smile to her face.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Mengersen, who has lived on West A Street for 47 years. “I’m just glad they’re doing something with it.”
Highlights of the west Belleville plan:
- Demolition is expected to be done by late November.
- Hill hopes to begin construction in April with the first homes ready in July or August. He expects to choose a builder this fall.
- The eight villas at 7009 W. Main St. will have two bedrooms, two baths and two-car garages. Hill plans to build two buildings, with four units each.
- The two homes at 8512 W. Main St. will have either two or three bedrooms. Hill expects the exterior of these home to complement the nearby existing brick homes.
- Hill bought the sites for $96,000 after a bank took ownership of the properties.
- The TIF grant is for the Forest Hills site because it is located in the TIF 3 district while the Rob Nora site is not in the TIF district. In a TIF, or tax increment finance district, the city puts property tax revenue into a designated fund and then uses the money to spur development.
- Before the buildings are demolished, Hill said he will let city firefighters and police officers use the vacant buildings for training. Fire Chief Tom Pour said the type of firefighter training will depend upon the permit the city receives from the Environmental Protection Agency. Pour said his department has requested permission to do “live burn” training at the Rob Nora site but not at Forest Hills.