Belleville aldermen on Monday night heard a proposal from a team led by the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority and a St. Louis company for the $12 million redevelopment of the former Meredith Home/Hotel Belleville into commercial space and senior apartments on the upper floors of the brick building that towers over the Public Square.
The City Council voted unanimously to authorize city staff to enter into negotiations on a redevelopment agreement for the project.
SWIDA and the Bywater Development Group of St. Louis would be the co-developers of the project.
Mike Lundy, executive director of SWIDA and former treasurer for the city of Belleville, sent the city a report detailing the group’s proposal.
Federal affordable housing and historic building tax credits would be used for the majority of the financing. The proposal calls for $8 million in funding from the affordable housing tax credits and $2.1 million from historic building tax credits. Also, the funding includes an Illinois Housing Development Authority loan of $1 million.
SWIDA has not asked for tax incentives from the city but the developers could ask for an incentive from the city at a later date, according to Jim Nations, board chairman for SWIDA.
The development team will seek to have the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This designation provides a “critical source” of financing in the form of federal historic rehabilitation tax credits, according to the proposal.
It is vibrant and people tend to love to be around people as long they can go back to their own space and this building will offer that.
Jim Nations of SWIDA comments on downtown Belleville and the Meredith Home redevelopment plan
Nations said he thinks the project will be successful because downtown Belleville is filled with thriving businesses.
“It is vibrant and people tend to love to be around people as long they can go back to their own space and this building will offer that,” Nations said.
Nations acknowledged that finding enough parking for the development is a challenge.
“We know it is a very problematic issue,” he said. But he noted that senior housing requires fewer parking places than other possible uses of the building such as a hotel because some of the residents will use public transportation or rely on family and friends for transportation.
When asked if the city would provide assistance on the parking, Nations said, “We don’t know.”
The developers have budgeted $300,000 to address the parking issue.
Nations said it’s possible the project could be finished in two years.
He also said the apartments would be designed for “active seniors” and would not be a nursing home.
Ward 5 Alderman Phillip Silsby acted as chairman of the City Council meeting because Mayor Mark Eckert was absent because he scheduled to undergo surgery this week.
Silsby said the redevelopment plan would be a “great way” to protect the 85-year-old building.
“The proposed rehabilitation will restore and preserve all of the critical architectural features of the building, both on the interior and the exterior,” according to SWIDA’s report.
This work would include:
▪ Restore main floor hotel lobby, including restoration of Art Deco ornamentation, terrazzo floors, columns and cornices.
▪ Restore masonry/terra cotta.
▪ Replace all windows with new historic-compliant windows.
The plan calls for a new roof and elevator as well as new plumbing, heating, air conditioner and fire suppression sprinkler systems.
For the project to qualify for affordable housing tax credits, income restrictions are placed on the apartment applicants, who must be 62 or older. The residents cannot earn more than 60 percent of the area median income.
Under these guidelines, a one-person household can earn a maximum of $29,580 annually and a two-person household can earn a maximum of $33,780.
The Hotel Belleville opened in 1931 and in the 1960s the Belleville Diocese took over the building at 16 S. Illinois St. and operated the Meredith Home for the elderly. The city bought the building in 2010 for $487,500 from the diocese.
SWIDA’s proposal calls the developers to buy the building from the city. The proposal budgets $500,000 for buying the property.
After the city bought the building, Belleville attorney Bruce Cook agreed to give the city $500,000 and in exchange, the city would tear down the building a park would be built there in honor of Cook’s later daughter. The city has since returned Cook’s donation and put a moratorium on demolishing the building.
The other development team members include: Worn Jerabek Wiltse Architects of Chicago; Thouvenot, Wade & Moerchen of Swansea for civil engineering; Holland Construction of Belleville as general contractor; and Lafser and Associates of Creve Coeur, Mo., as historic consultant.