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By DENNIS GRUBAUGH

p01 siueSIUE officials testify at a Senate budget hearing held on the campus in April. Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe and interim School of Business Dean John Navin are at right.
(Photo courtesy of SIUE).
    If “turnaround” equates to heads spinning, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget fixes are hitting the mark.
    - SIUE officials say cuts to higher education proposed for next fiscal year would cost the campus 250 jobs.
    - Belleville’s mayor says a 50 percent reduction in the local government fund would cost his city $2.2 million, the equivalent of closing a firehouse or laying off police officers.
    - The president of the Illinois Association of Area Agencies on Aging says the budget for senior services will be held to current levels but doesn’t factor in the growing senior population, which is being affected by the totality of the proposed cuts.
    And so it has gone on for weeks, local officials reacting to the likely impact that Rauner’s $32 billion budget would have on Southwestern Illinois. With key votes anticipated in the General Assembly in the weeks ahead, community leaders have spoken out, at Southern Illinois Senate budget committee hearings, at chamber of commerce gatherings, at council meetings and business luncheons. No one is sure exactly what will happen, but everyone fears the prospects.
    “This is serious business. The budget which is being proposed has been described as unconscionable. It may be numbers to the governor, but to us it’s real people. These are necessary services; they are not waste and fraud,” state Sen. William Haine, D-Alton, said at joint hearing of the State Senate’s two appropriations committees, held at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He’s made similar comments in multiple recent appearances.
    According to an Associated Press report, lawmakers in late April began working in earnest on the governor’s ``Turnaround Agenda,’’ which is a set of pro-business priorities Rauner wants the Legislature to approve in exchange for consenting to new revenue to save programs dear to Democrats. The governor’s proposed spending plan would balance the budget mainly by slashing spending for things like Medicaid, human services programs and state employees’ group health care. The plan also includes a roughly $300 million increase to K-12 education, which the governor has identified as a top priority.
    Rauner, during a recent media stop in O’Fallon and in answer to a question from the Illinois Business Journal, said he was willing to discuss new taxes.
    “I’m open to discussing anything, and I have said I’m open to tax reform,” the governor said. “However, we’ve got to have structural reform prior to that, as part of that. For politicians, it’s scary to do structural reform but that’s what we have to do. Balancing a budget is not hard if you’re sincere, and I am. We will always have a balanced budget in our administration. What’s hard is to change the structure that causes your budgets to constantly go out of balance.”
    All of the uncertainties have many leaders ready to pull their hair. Local cities, which work on an earlier fiscal year calendar than does the state, had their budgets largely figured out before the impact of the potential cuts became known. They’ve been scrambling to make revisions ever since.

By DENNIS GRUBAUGH

p01 apexAn artist’s rendering of what the Apex Building on East Main Street in Collinsville will look like when completed. A Reifschneider’s Grill and Grape and five luxury loft units should be ready by June 1.    Scott and Bud Jacob are brothers, and Gregg Crawford grew up alongside them in Fairview Heights. They’ve stayed pals for decades.
    But it’s more than a lifelong friendship. Theirs is also a business relationship, and today it’s playing out to the betterment of downtowns across Metro East.
    The trio is putting the wraps on a stylish restaurant and loft complex in the former Apex Building on East Main Street in Collinsville, where the city recently recognized them as Development of the Year. It’s the latest in a long string of recognitions for the builders who have constructed hundreds of projects in Southwestern Illinois, both commercial and residential.
    The Collinsville project is the Reifschneider’s Grill and Grape, a sports bar and restaurant on the corner of East Main and South Center streets, scheduled to open June 1. The restaurant is being constructed with an all-glass garage door in the front that will swing open for an inviting appearance. Patio seating around the building will be a plus, Crawford said. There will be room for 200 diners, not counting the banquet room, which will be available for private parties.
    Upstairs will be five luxury lofts, which will have a private entrance of their own. The construction will include a sound barrier between floors. The loft units will range from 850 square feet to 1,100 square feet.
    The building and its setting are emblematic of the approach the group takes in rehabbing downtown cores.
    “That’s really what we do; that’s our passion,” Crawford said. “We look for walkable Main Streets.”
    Hence the name of the partnership, Main Street Developers, LLC.
    Each of the partners brings something different to the table. Crawford is the hands-on guy, overseeing much of the construction, which is handled through another company they own, MidAmerica Contracting, a general contractor formed in 1986.
    Meanwhile, Bud Jacob is the sales and marketing man, keeping his eye out for future projects, and younger brother Scott is “the operations and numbers guy,” who figures out if buildings are worth the investment.
    “We look for cities that like to work with us. They might have some TIF dollars, they might have a building that’s just sitting there, and nobody’s coming in,” Scott Jacob said.
    “Cities that are aggressive, that want to redevelop their Main Streets back to where they were 100 years ago, have to be willing to do those kinds of things (to lure developers),” Bud Jacob said. “The cities that say, ‘Come in and do it and pay for it yourself,’ their cities are just going to continue to wilt.”
     Collinsville worked with the trio. In 2010, the city received donation of the Apex Building, which had fallen into complete disrepair after years of inactivity. The city had used $468,000 of its own funds to gut the interior, fix the roof and secure the property until it could find the right developer.
    “That’s why we were so attracted to Main Street Developers, LLC,” said Leah Joyce, the coordinator of Uptown Collinsville. “That’s what they specialize in, rehabbing historic buildings on Main Street and bringing creative and unique uses to Main Street.”
    The terms of the redevelopment agreement called for Main Street Development to purchase the building from the city (for $468,000) and for the city to reimburse the developer the same amount toward construction costs, out of its TIF funds.
      By the time the builders are done, some $1.2 million will have been spent on a property that will eventually be assessed at closer to $1.6 million, Crawford said.
    The Reifschneider’s location is the third in the area, the others being in Freeburg and Columbia. Main Street Developers built all three.
    “The one in Freeburg was a bowling alley, but you’d never know that today. And the one in Columbia was an old biker bar that we all got a hold of and redeveloped,” Crawford said.
    The Apex Building had the kind of allure that normally draws the trio. Crawford ticked off the attractions.
    “The character of it, the big windows boarded up across the front, the big store front,” he said. “I love those old store fronts, I know we always look for that. We’re into that industrial look, the exposed brick and the hard surfaces. And then we have to figure out what kind of businesses can we put in there? Can we make the cash flow?”

By DENNIS GRUBAUGH

    EAST ALTON — Village officials are cheering a $15.7 million effort to rebuild the housing base by way of a unique combination of funding support from government and business.
    A ribbon was cut this past month on Emerald Ridge, an upscale residential neighborhood surrounding the Keasler Recreation Center. Some 80 obsolete homes in the former defense housing area were razed to make way for 46 new structures. In all, 34 one-story and 12 two-story, single-family detached homes have been built.
    The new houses are already occupied or are otherwise committed, said village official Joe Silkwood. A few structures remain to be razed, but the village opted to mark the project’s completion a bit early in honor of outgoing Mayor Fred Bright, who retired at the end of April after 18 years at the helm. Silkwood, who has been treasurer, was expected to be named mayor this month by the Village Board.
    The project was developed by Rise Community Development and will be managed locally by McCormack Baron. Both are based in St. Louis.
    McCormack Baron has a temporary office in the recreation center where representatives have been present at least a couple of days a week, Silkwood said.
    “They actually do all the maintenance on the property including mowing the grass. They are going to be able to sell those units after 15 years, and they want them to be in the best shape they can be in,” Silkwood said. “They are highly motivated to keep those looking good.”
    The demolished houses were originally built for ordnance workers who produced World War II-era ammunition at nearby Olin Corp., but through the years the site fell into a state of dilapidation.
    Residents who lived there at the end were given a chance, and several agreed, to rent spots in the new development.
    Under terms of the low-income financing package used, the property will be rental for 15 years with a lease/purchase option available sometime after year 15. (A resident doesn’t necessarily need to live there for 15 years.)
    The homes are available to people earning up to 60 percent of the area median income, with the exact income varying by family size. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the population of East Alton meets the income eligibility requirement.
    Monthly rent is: $575 for a two-plus bedroom home; $625 for a three-bed home; and $735 for a four-bedroom home.
    The project is the conclusion of a decade of planning that included the village, Madison County, the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority and at least two state agencies.
    SWIDA and Rise are the development partners on the project, with SWIDA having a 25 percent stake, a $400,000 guarantee from its general fund that the agency loses only if the project is not completed, SWIDA Executive Director Mike Lundy said.
    Rise Community Development, formerly called Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance, is a nonprofit organization that has helped redevelop neighborhoods around the metropolitan area.
    Rise brought in St. Louis Design Alliance and Altman-Charter Co. as architects and builders for the project.
    The project is financed by:
        - $11.097 million in equity provided by federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, obtained by PNC Multifamily Capital and administered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority;
        - $131,000 in General Partner equity from an Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credit donation made by U.S. Bank
        - $1.25 million from the Illinois Housing Development Authority Capital Trust Fund;
        - a $1.14 million IHDA Home Loan;
        - an $8.54 million PNC Bank Bridge Loan;
        - a $625,000 PNC Bank permanent loan for construction;
        - a $600,000 Madison County Home Loan;
        - a $550,000 Madison County Urban Development Action Grant, a repayment bridge loan;
        - a $958,000 Technical Assistance Corporation Predevelopment Loan;
        - a $550,000 Technical Assistance Corporation bridge loan;
        - a $184,000 Department of Commerce and Community Development Green Building Grant (for energy saving features);  and
        - $100,000 from a village of East Alton Community Development Block Grant.
        - a $685,000 Deferred Developer Fee Loan

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    ALTON – Simmons Hanly Conroy is proud to announce that the Simmons Employee Foundation’s 11th annual golf tournament will help young adult cancer patients and the children of workers harmed by serious work-related accidents. The two charities selected this year are Illinois Kids’ Chance, based in Alton, and 3 Little Birds 4 Life, out of Collinsville.
    “As a law firm that helps individuals and families devastated by mesothelioma cancer and other occupational injuries, the missions of 3 Little Birds 4 Life and Illinois Kids’ Chance are near and dear to our employees’ hearts,” said SEF Director Amy Fair. “We are really excited to help these two, deserving local charities.”
    Illinois Kids’ Chance is the state chapter of a national organization that awards college scholarships to kids whose parents have either been killed or seriously injured in work-related accidents. The first Kids’ Chance chapter was started in Georgia in 1988. Since then, over 25 states, including Illinois, have their own Kids’ Chance program and have given out over $5 million in need-based scholarships to more than 2,000 children.  
    3 Little Birds 4 Life is a national wish-granting charity for young adult cancer patients started by a teacher named Ashley Swip. When her brother Guy “Tyler” Gifford was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in his late 20s, Ashley quickly learned that most wish-granting charities phase out candidates at 18. Instead, she worked with the St. Louis Cardinal’s to grant Tyler’s wish to attend a game, meet the announcers and sit in the press box.
    When Tyler passed away in November 2010, Ashley decided to continue granting wishes to young adults in his honor. She started 3 Little Birds 4 Life, which is dedicated to granting wishes for young adults, ages 18-40. The organization has since granted more than 70 wishes in 15 different states for 25 different types of cancer.
    “I encourage everyone to join us on the green in support of these two very good causes,” Fair said.
    The tournament, organized in a four-person scramble format, will take place Friday, June 12, at the Spencer T. Olin Golf Course in Alton. Tee times are 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Cash prizes will be awarded to the first- and second-place teams in each flight.
    Registration costs $100 per player or $400 per four-person team. Teams registered by May 31 will be entered into a drawing for four St. Louis Cardinal’s tickets. Entry fees include green fees, cart rental, lunch or dinner, refreshments on the course and a complimentary gift. One hundred percent of the net proceeds will benefit the charities.
    For additional information about registration and sponsorships, contact Amy Stiebel at (618) 259-2222 or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
    Information about this year’s charities can be found by visiting their websites here and here.

About Simmons Employee Foundation

    In late 2004, the employees of the Simmons firm came together to create a single, streamlined way for them to give back to the communities they are so proud to call home.  As a result of their creativity and heartfelt commitment, the Simmons Employee Foundation (SEF), has provided over $1 million of financial support and countless volunteer hours to local charitable organizations.
    SIMMONS HANLY CONROY LLC is a leading national law firm in complex litigation and represents clients throughout the country on issues involving consumer protection rights, class actions and contingent-fee commercial litigation. With 70 attorneys in six offices across the country, the firm is dedicated to its clients and has pledged nearly $20 million to cancer research. Additionally, the firm focuses on intellectual property infringement, pharmaceutical injury litigation and toxic exposure. For more information, visit http://www.simmonsfirm.com.