One of the new owners of the old Highland Chamber of Commerce building said he wants to help bring a "food district" to the square.
"I just think Highland has more potential than any other little town I've been around," said Tom Yenne, owner of Huddle Bar & Grill in Caseyville, Illinois.
Yenne also said that he and his other unnamed business partners have big plans for the properties.
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"We're definitely going to bring nightlife, bring good food, good atmosphere — just a good place for Highland to be proud of," Yenne said.
However, Yenne, an Edwardsville resident, said it was too soon to divulge specific details as the new owners are currently in negotiations with the city. However, he said Highland citizens could start seeing the beginnings of the project in about two to four months.
"I don’t want to jump the gun. This is a huge project. I’d hate to make a comment that we change our mind on. That wouldn’t be fair to the city of Highland," Yenne said.
That being said, Yenne sees what he does with his property expanding into a potential "food district" around the square. He said he wants to work with local businesses to make this plan a reality.
"We're not here to take business from Highland. We're here to just add to it and help everybody in the community," Yenne said.
As for what is to come specifically at the chamber building, Yenne said they are working with an architect to plan a design that will keep the integrity of the building. Yenne shared this design will not be another Huddle, though he said the bar is a great example of what locals should expect.
"Something great is going to happen for Highland. I will promise you that," Yenne said.
Yenne and Butz bought the chamber building for $40,000, according to the Madison County Recorder's Office.
The chamber's executive director, Nancie Zobrist, said the price might seem low to some. However, she said the organization determined it would have to spend a minimum of $35,000 within the next 10 years to keep the building in working order.
"The reality is that we are a nonprofit that is focused on supporting our members, not on maintaining the buildings. We realized that the fiscally responsible move was to sell," Zobrist said.
The chamber and the Highland Area Community Foundation will move into a rental location at 1216 Main St., likely next month.
Zobrist said not having to pay for maintenance will help save money.
"The funds can be redirected to educational offerings, tourism efforts, upgrades to the community website, increases in advocacy efforts, resources for businesses, and the list can just go on and on," Zobrist said.
Yenne and Butz also bought two vacant lots from Terra Properties. The lots are next to the chamber building and sold for a total of $60,000, according to Rob Bowman, president of Terra Properties.
"While that is a reasonable price for a vacant lot in downtown Highland, it is a fraction of the cost to acquire the property and raze the former Ben Franklin store that was on the site," Bowman said.