The recent demolition of the western portion of Southview Plaza set off waves of nostalgia, with residents reminiscing about first sleds and bicycles purchased at Western Auto and the many items at Keg, Crate and Barrel during the shopping center’s 1960s-1980s heyday.
However, redevelopment plans that will turn the property around are in the works, much to the delight of O’Fallon city officials, although nothing is ready to go at this time.
“We’re excited to see what it will be. There are no plans that we can announce publicly, but there is interest in the site,” Community Development Director Ted Shekell said.
He said the demolition will occur in phases, with the next portion, actually two buildings, to be taken down in two parts. The demolished area two weeks ago was once home to World Martial Arts.
“It’s going to take awhile to clean up to re-use the property. We’ve just started the process,” he said. “It needed to come down.”
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He said work will likely be finished in spring or summer of 2019.
The last piece, which currently houses the Papa John’s Pizza in O’Fallon, won’t be torn down until the takeout and delivery chain moves to a new location.
Shekell said an agreement is being worked out between the developer and Papa John’s and that the city is not involved in those details.
Manager Sal Diliberto said relocation is planned, but there has been no announcement of where or when they will move. Until then, it’s business as usual.
“We’re staying here in O’Fallon, that’s all I know,” he said. “I like it here. I don’t want to go away. We like the city and I’ve made many friends here.”
Originally built in 1959, Southview Plaza shopping center was home to Keck’s Tomboy grocery store, Ben Franklin, Dollar General, several Hallmark shops, Bollmeier Hobby Shop, Movie Mania video rental and a few chain stores, now defunct in the U.S., including P.N. Hirsch department store and Western Auto.
Mom-and-pop restaurants, like the Barrel Room, Schiappa’s and House of Hunan, plus clothing stores, beauty and barber shops, dry cleaners, hardware stores and gift shops were tenants during its 59-year history. St. Clair Travel, insurance agencies and other businesses also operated there, at the corner of Lincoln and U.S. Highway 50.
“It served a valuable purpose in its day. It’s been in transition these last few years,” Shekell said.
The center had been in decline since the 1990s, with residents complaining and calling it an “eyesore.” Many businesses had already left when Dollar General moved last March.
In April, rejuvenating the nearly vacant center took a major step forward when the city council approved a TIF redevelopment agreement with Dover Frontier, the plaza owner, who planned to demolish the buildings.
After completion, they plan to perform the environmental remediation necessary to make the property development-ready. Once the clean-up is done, the property will be much more attractive to prospective businesses, Shekell said.
“People have been wanting something done with Southview for years,” Mayor Herb Roach said.
No one had been willing to purchase it because of potential problems with soil contamination and uncertainty about costs.
“There was an old dry cleaning business on site, and that will take awhile,” Shekell said.
The maximum cost will be $1.8 million to demolish all structures on site, provide all environmental cleanup and obtain a “No Further Remediation” letter from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. This will make the site suitable for future redevelopment
Some tenants had already re-located, including Dollar General. The discount chain opened in March at its new site, 648 West U.S. 50, at the northwest corner of Lawn Avenue and U.S. 50.
Once Dollar General moved, Southview was close to being emptied by the owner, Shekell said.
Plans for the redevelopment of Southview Plaza, and what might happen with the Mid-America Commerce Center, near the Reider Road Interstate 4 exit, remain key aspects of the city’s economic development plans, and the marketing campaign, “You have dreams. We’ll help you build them.”