Marion city leaders sign off on plans they hope will bring new business, more people to town

City leaders take next step to change west side of Marion, Ill.
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 5:35 PM CDT
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MARION, Ill. (KFVS) - A big step forward for a project in southern Illinois that is described as a game-changer.

Marion city leaders signed off on plans they hope will bring new business and more people to town.

Marion Mayor Mike Absher used the analogy on Tuesday night saying once this project is finished, Marion will be to the Shawnee National Forest, like Gatlinburg, Tennessee is to the Smoky Mountains.

“What would it take to get more people to come here to southern Illinois, to help our economy, to bring dollars from outside our area to inside our area,” said Rodney Cabaness, master developer of the STAR Bond District.

That’s the question Cabaness faced when coming up with a plan to redevelop Marion’s west side. With the passage of the STAR Bond District, the city can now offer tax incentives to entice businesses to come to the area.

This project includes the redevelopment of the mall, a sports entertainment venue and a retail shopping center on the southside of Route 13.

“When you have three components to the project, one being a destination retailer and then a retail center with lots of shops and then the entertainment component when they’re within walking distance of each other, you kind of are giving everybody the best of all worlds,” said Cabaness.

Leaders at VISIT SI say this will also increase tourism throughout the region.

“It’s a great opportunity to increase the aspect of tourism here in Williamson County and across southern Illinois,” said Ashlee Spiller, VISIT SI executive director.

Spiller said this new project doesn’t just benefit Marion, it’ll help neighboring counties.

“If you heard Mayor Absher last night talking about a rising tide lifts all ships and not only will it help out Marion and Williamson County but you’re going to see the flow over into the Jackson County and Saline County areas as well,” she added.

She said the goal is to bring in money from areas outside those counties, too.

“So we’re not just circulating that same dollar and that we’re bringing in additional influx in cash back into the southern Illinois region,” she continued.

Meanwhile, Cabaness knows this project will be a major hit.

“We’re going to hope we can speed things along as quickly as possible cause it’s a great thing. It’s going to benefit our region, it’s going to benefit so many people. So we don’t want to wait any longer than we have too,” said Cabaness.

The project is expected to take between four and six years, according to project leaders.

For more information on the STAR Bond District, you can find that information here.