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By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
    Belleville saw many signs of progress in the past year, and Mayor Mark Eckert has a long list to cite.
    “We feel like we had a very good 2018,” Eckert said of a year in which the city issued more than 100 commercial occupancy permits.
    One of the most significant developments was the long-anticipated opening of the Hofbrauhaus brewery/restaurant on Illinois Route 15, across for the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.
    Talks continue regarding getting a hotel on the land behind the new restaurant. And, the city is also anticipating the final drawings for the Jack Flash gas station long promised at the entrance to the complex.
    A number of other new projects aim to address higher-end living options.
    Meredith Home/Lofts on the Square, a project of Bywater development and the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority, is waiting on final state tax credits that will allow the $12 million project to move forward. Approximately 50 senior living lofts are planned. Originally known as the Belleville Hotel, the property has been empty since 2010. The Meredith Home property was also approved for listing on the National Register of Historic Places by the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council.
    Villas of Holly Brook, an assisted living and memory care center, has begun construction at Frank Scott Parkway and South 11th Street.
    Sonomacap development razed derelict apartment buildings and announced that new residential villas and single family homes will be built respectively at 7009 W. Main St. and 8512 W. Main St.
    Tygracon Properties began renovations at 300 E. Main St. for 12, higher-end downtown apartments.
    Some businesses are making substantial investments.
    A new 5,000-square-foot Moto Mart opened at year’s end at Illinois Route 161 and Fullerton Road.
    “It’s considered a truck stop, one of the largest they’ve ever built,” Eckert said. It will have a full kitchen and a drive-through. The city has been trying to develop the corner for about 25 years.
    Auffenberg Ford completed a $2 million renovation at 901 S. Illinois St. and with the assistance given to them by the city, owners have committed to remaining in the city for another 15 years, Eckert said.
    And, The EDGE completed an expansion, doubling in size, to include indoor go-karts, a virtual reality attraction, bowling lanes and more at 701 South Belt West.
    There were also notable street projects, among them:
    - West Main Street streetscape continued, extending a project that began a couple of years ago. The leg being addressed now is from Sixth Street to 12th Street.
    “Over the next two to two and a half years we will be taking this all the way to 17th Street,” Eckert said.
    - East A Street improvements are completed from Illinois Street to Oak Street.
    - Union Avenue improvements are completed, from Centreville Avenue to Eighth Street.
    Several restaurants were added or altered this year, among them Copper Fire Bar & Eatery (opened); Popeye’s (opened); McDonald’s (renovated at three sites with a fourth planned this year); Crehan’s Irish Pub (renovated); and Bennie’s Pizza Pub (opened).