O'Fallon Progress

Downtown Plaza plan taking shape

O’Fallon residents have given their input on design plans, shown here, for a new downtown plaza and the city is nearing moving on to the next stage in the project, which is part of the city’s Destination O’Fallon initiative.
O’Fallon residents have given their input on design plans, shown here, for a new downtown plaza and the city is nearing moving on to the next stage in the project, which is part of the city’s Destination O’Fallon initiative. Provided image

Envisioning a farmers market, concerts, seasonal festivals and parades, O’Fallon residents have contributed their ideas for a new plaza expected to revitalize downtown, and the city is nearing the next phase in the project, which is part of the Destination O’Fallon initiative.

Nearly 70 people attended a public workshop Jan. 18 to help determine the plaza’s design, policies and construction. Residents unable to attend can provide input through an online survey sent to the community.

“Over 1,300 residents have provided input about Destination O’Fallon so far. It’s been well-received,” Community Development Director Ted Shekell said. “A lot of folks in town are really excited about the downtown plaza and the soccer park.”

Plans are for a parking lot at the corner of First and Vine streets to be transformed into a multi-purpose gathering space and overflow parking area.

“We’ll essentially take the next week to read 250-300 surveys recently completed by residents and businesses, and take those into consideration when we’re fleshing out the final plans. A lot of work is yet to be done,” Shekell said.

Destination O’Fallon is a comprehensive economic development initiative that the city hopes will provide more opportunities for youths and families as well as spur economic growth.

Photos, concepts and information are featured on the city’s website. SWT Design of St. Louis is working on the project.

Approved by the City Council in November, the two Destination O’Fallon projects are touted as a community-wide investment to make O’Fallon a national destination for businesses, families and visitors.

Financing comes through an increased hotel-motel tax, which is expected to collect $1.5 million. At its Nov. 7 meeting, the council repealed and replaced the previous hotel/motel tax ordinance for 5 percent so that an additional 4 percent would fund Destination O’Fallon.

In the next 15 years, O’Fallon is projected to have more than 40,000 residents. Two hospitals will be operational.

Officials believe O’Fallon is going through its most transformative growth period in history since its founding in 1854. Because of that, the city has the opportunity to positively shape O’Fallon’s future.

O’Fallon collected $815,000 in hotel-motel tax revenue last year, and had the lowest tax of any city in St. Clair County. The project could cost up to $9.5 million.

The multiple-construction project will be completed in phases. In addition to the plaza, expansion of the soccer fields at the O’Fallon Family Sports Park, which will be improved with lighted, all-weather turf fields, is also planned.

“We want to see events continue and have even more downtown. It’s been kind of hard to do without any amenities. We want to bring people downtown,” Shekell said.

“Most of the attention and excitement about Destination O’Fallon is because of what it means for the residents of O’Fallon,” Mayor Gary Graham said in a recent “Traditional Values, Progressive Thinking” column.

“Downtown O’Fallon remains the heart of the community. The O’Fallon Downtown Plan concluded that a top priority is a community space for festivals, fairs and a farmers market. Investments through Destination O’Fallon will improve infrastructure and parking, and will provide a place to hold unique community events,” he said.

“Increased activity at the new downtown plaza will continue the momentum in Downtown O’Fallon that we have seen with the recent addition of Peel Pizza, Shooter’s, Fezziwig’s Market Place, Sweet Katie Bee’s, the HollyHock House, and more,” Graham said.

“O’Fallon is, and will continue to be, a destination for businesses, families and visitors, that is why it is such a great community in which to live,” Graham said.

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