Southwestern Illinois TIF Success Stories
Fairview Heights using TIF to revitalize aging commercial area
By ALAN J. ORTBALS
The city of Fairview Heights created its third TIF district in 2007. This one — the Lincoln Trail TIF District — is aimed at revitalizing the Lincoln Trail commercial corridor from near its intersection with Illinois Route 159 west to Bunkum Road and redeveloping a highly commercialized shopping area abutting Interstate 64.
“Part of the district is an old highway corridor, and when I say old it precedes the construction of I-64,” said Mike Malloy, the city’s director of economic development. “Virtually every community has some type of corridor like that and it’s a tough nut to crack.”
The city is taking a two-pronged approach to the revitalization effort for the entire district. One prong is the establishment of development standards. Malloy said that they are currently working with Planning Design Studio, a planning, urban design and landscape architecture firm located in downtown Saint Louis.
The standards will be used to direct new development, redevelopment and renovations of existing properties to create a more cohesive and attractive appearance to the corridor. They will give owners and tenants direction relative to things like façade treatments, lighting, landscaping and signage that will help the wide variety of buildings and properties work better together.
Malloy pointed out that the corridor contains several old strip shopping centers that were developed in the 1950s and 1960s. The standards will be used to assist the owners in the renovation of those properties to make them more attractive and more appealing to shoppers and tenants.
Once the design standards have been developed and adopted by the city council, the next step would be to create a fund to assist property owners and tenants in the renovation process. The program would be some type of matching grant, said Malloy, but the percentages have not been established yet and the program would have to be approved by the City Council and incorporated into its business assistance program.
The second prong of the two-pronged approach will be streetscape improvements which are also being designed by PDS. These streetscape improvements will occur in the much more commercialized section of the district, which contains a significant number of “big box” stores. The street improvements would include things like improved lighting, landscaping and new sidewalks. Signage is also an issue as the corridor has grown in a bit of a helter-skelter fashion over the years and motorists can find it confusing. In some cases, according to Malloy, they may need to consider realignment of traffic patterns.
The city has applied to the Illinois Department of Transportation for a $530,000 grant that would be matched with $200,000 in TIF funds to pay for the streetscape improvements.
While some TIF districts are met with opposition, this hasn’t been the case for the Lincoln Trail TIF District.
“We’ve gotten good accolades from the tenants as well as the property owners in terms of the city taking the initiative on this streetscape project,” said Malloy.