For 23 years MetroLink trains have rolled through Illinois communities and sparked development ideas that have mostly been derailed. Fairview Heights for years fought for outlots at its station that remain empty, Belleville drew multiple housing and retail plans for the Scheel Street station that evaporated and the Memorial station has large, open, weed-covered lots that sit waiting.
Only East St. Louis and its Emerson Park station developed, with trim houses and a large senior apartment complex that delivered on the promised ground floor retail development.
At least that was the case until Tuesday.
Developers just announced plans for a $10.5 million, three-story apartment building at Swansea’s MetroLink station. Low-income, active seniors are being targeted who want to use the light rail system to get to Cardinals games or use the accompanying bike trail for exercise.
The Southwestern Illinois Development Authority and St. Louis-based Bywater Development Group are behind the plan. They also are the ones working to develop the Meredith Home on the Public Square in Belleville for a similar target tenant group.
There is a logic to putting housing and retail development close to the MetroLink stations. Living along an alternative transit network should appeal to active seniors or anyone wanting to simplify their life or live greener.
Maybe the time is finally here for Fairview Heights’ station and Belleville’s three stations. If the Swansea apartments succeed, there will be an example with which to convince other developers that the risk is worthwhile.