Marion City Council adopts ordinance, approves development project

City leaders take next step to change west side of Marion, Ill.
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 6:17 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2023 at 5:17 PM CDT
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MARION, Ill. (KFVS) - Major changes are coming to the west side of Marion.

On Tuesday, the Marion City Council adopted an ordinance approving STAR Bond Project Plan #1, which was presented earlier in the evening by Rodney Cabaness and other members of Millenium Destination Development.

The move by the city council paves the way for the City of Marion to issue bonds to pay for certain development costs associated with the redevelopment of the former Illinois Centre Mall site and surrounding properties.

These bonds are only repayable through future sales tax revenue collected within the defined STAR Bond Area and are not subject to repayment from any other revenue source.

Millennium is essentially creating their own retail destination. They have secured multiple franchises that will allow them to sell everything from boats, to ATVs, to modular homes and all the furnishings and accessories that go along with those industries.

Additionally, they will offer unique opportunities within the former mall for entertainment like indoor rock climbing, multiple food options and other unique experiential offerings.

There are also ongoing commitments and discussions with well known national retailers to come or expand their business in Marion to a new shopping center that will be located south of Joseph Cannon Way.

Millenium has also secured a commitment from Mammoth Development to build an interactive multi-story driving range and entertainment complex featuring pickleball courts, mini-golf and other activities. Other projects are anticipated and this will be a multi-year development that will transform the mall and lead to construction on undeveloped land on Marion’s west end.

“This is a first of its kind in Illinois” said Marion Mayor Mike Absher. “I expect that there will be many more STAR Bond Projects after ours gets going and is successful and many more people that will want to locate in Marion once they understand exactly what we have here.”

After an extensive feasibility study and review process by the Illinois Department of Revenue, city staff and the city council, the council voted unanimously to approve STAR bond Project Plan #1 submitted by Millenium Destination Development, the master developer as defined in the act. While exact figures are yet to be determined, STAR Bond Project Plan #1 is projected to bring in over $1 billion in sales over the next 20 years.

Virtually all taxing bodies benefit from the additional real estate tax revenue of the new development.

Additionally, city leaders say the county school districts stand to benefit immensely from this development. The legislation provides a specific provision that 15 percent of all real estate tax growth will be deposited into a special fund titled the STAR Bond School Improvement and Operations Fund.

Those funds are distributed to the regional superintendent annually, who will distribute those funds to each school within ROE.

Furthermore, with the increased sales tax produced by this development, the county school 1 percent building fund tax is projected to see an increase of millions in revenue. Every school district in the county will benefit with real estate tax and sales tax, and every taxing body will benefit from the substantial property tax that is projected to be paid inside the STAR Bond District.

City leaders in Marion say this is 13 years in the making. They want to offer tax incentives to make it happen, by creating what they call a STAR Bond District.

But what is a STAR Bond?

STAR stands for Sales Tax and Revenue. The State generally copied the concept from Kansas who was the first state to offer the incentive. A developer designs a project that meets several specific criteria, economists study the feasibility of the project and develop projections based on various market factors, the state reviews the study and if they determine it is feasible, the state pledges all of their sales tax and they require the city to do the same. Once the sales tax revenue is pledged, the city issues bonds repayable only by the projected new sales tax generated within the STAR Bond District. The bonded money is used by the developer to pay for development costs.

Leaders say it will not be a new tax and has nothing to do with real estate taxes. The STAR bond would be a commitment of state and local sales tax within the city to help pay for bonds.

The City of Marion’s Chief of Staff, Cody Moake, said this redevelopment could be a major game changer for the entire region.

“This independent group came in and looked at our demographics, looked at the project’s plan, looked at all the factors involved and determined that this would be absolutely transformational for our region,” Moake said. And so when we talk about all the additional traffic that will be here, we really believe that it’s going to have a positive impact on every community in southern Illinois.” said Moake

Mayor Absher says construction on this project should begin by no later than June of 2024. Absher says the project should take anywhere between 4 to 6 years.