Collinsville Proposes new TIF to boost Cahokia Mounds

Discuss new retail, dining, business and residential projects in Southwestern Illinois, including East St. Louis, Belleville, O'Fallon and Edwardsville.
Collinsville is currently debating the creation of a TIF district for one of its most struggling areas of town. The proposed district stretches into the river bottom part of town, encompassing mostly cornfields, rundown strip malls that include a Rural King, the city's little league diamonds, the middle school, and then past 255 to Fairmount Park and the city's boundary with State Park.

In the comment section there's a pretty heated debate going on that represents both sides, but as a Collinsvillian I'm unsure how I feel about it. For one, this is a rather depressing part of town, and more needs to be done to beautify the area around Cahokia Mounds - an attraction that should be one of the region's biggest attractions. However, the problem is that this proposed district does not stretch into State Park. So someone getting off 255 for Cahokia Mounds would drive through 1/10 of a mile of TIF beautification around Fairmount Park but then head into State Park, which is one of Collinsville's toughest areas (if you consider it Collinsville, which is a bit of a confusing situation).

Furthermore, I just don't trust Collinsville's government to do anything right, and part of that is because Collinsvillians are ridiculously frugal when it comes to the city spending money. Miner's Theater in downtown Collinsville should be the center of Colllinsville, much like it was when it opened 98 years ago. The city government, through the Collinsville Area Recreation District, purchased the theater about 6 years ago with plans to renovate it but then abandoned it when costs got a little high. The Miner's theater is an ideal project for TIF funding, but instead we're talking about cleaning up a streetscape getting off the highway.

Ugh. Frustration. Collinsville remains three steps behind the likes of Edwardsville and Belleville.

Article from BND:

Resident Phil Astrauskas criticized previous recipients of TIF money at the January meeting.

“We talk about TIF, infrastructure — that’s what they’ve all mentioned. ‘We’re going to do this. We’re going to pull the weeds out of the bushes and that stuff along St. Louis Road.’ How many weeds are growing at Home Federal Savings and Loan where you just gave them ($35,200) for a new heating system? Do you really think they need it? Really? Honestly? Come on.”

Bill Meister, of the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society, echoed Valenti’s sentiment during the meeting. He said improvements to Collinsville Road would be important to tourism.

“It just looks horrible,” Meister said. “It’s a bad presentation considering how many visitors we (Cahokia Mounds) get from 80 different countries. We’ve figured out that basically someone who visits the Mounds spends $37 in the area, so I think it’s important that we make (a) better presentation coming off the highway.”

Read more here: ... rylink=cpy
Hah! In a long distant past, that Phil Astrauskas guy was my landlord. Nice enough guy, honest landlord, but the shape he keeps the exterior of his properties in isn't doing Colllinsville any favors.

Its been stunning to me that they haven't been able to get the work done on the Miner's theater. I don't know where the money is going to be totally honest. There has been near-constant fundraising for what seems like years now. This past year the Festival of Trees (which is always a fun event: ... trees-2015) even benefited it.

I guess it shouldn't be all that surprising; I've known people that worked with CARD on projects before and nothing they said served to convince me that they have the ability to get projects done on time and budget. I'm hesitant to trust them with even more money. Its also kind of a shame that, if their website is to be believed, the biggest hurdle in getting the theater re-opened is ADA compliance. Feels dumb that its just sitting there, nearly ready to go, but because it doesn't have accessible bathrooms and doors, they can't use it for anything. Seems like there should be some sort of waiver they could get being a historic building and such.
The renovation work on Miner's is moving forward, albeit slowly. It's a lot of piecemeal donations, in both time and money. Various trades have volunteered their work for it. For example, the local Mason union volunteered to do plaster repair in the lobby and used it to train their novices. Then the painters followed and used it to train as they repainted it. Still, it's a slow process. I took a class on political leadership and the final assignment was to pick a political project and make a plan for it. I chose Miner's Theatre and formed a plan to finance it mostly through TIF. It just makes so much sense and would be such a boon to Main Street Collinsville that really lacks anything other than a few bars. This is the type of project that TIF was created for.

But you're right, CARD is beyond incompetent. The divide between CARD and City Hall became ugly and juvenile a couple years ago. Politics in Collinsville is a mess.