Metro East Area News Briefs

From left, St. Clair County Executive Director Terry Beach, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO Sheila Sweeney, and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern

St.  Clair County joins new regional alliance

St. Louis Economic Development Partnership (SLEDP) CEO Sheila Sweeney announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, St. Charles County and St. Clair County, April 26.

The MOU, formally announced before a crowd of 700 area business and government leaders during the partnership’s annual meeting at St. Louis’ Chase Park Plaza, calls for collaboration and cooperation in the provision of economic development services.

“This agreement will push us towards the goals we all have,” Sweeney said.  “We want to grow investment, grow our population and make the St. Louis region a better place to live, work and play.”

The new alliance comes following submission of a joint, regional proposal by the SLEDP to online retailer Amazon, for development of secondary headquarters complex in the St. Louis area.

The massive Amazon campus proposed by the SLEDP would have stretched from St. Louis-Lambert International Airport in St. Louis County, through Downtown St. Louis, to a proposed new 100-acre business park on the banks of the Mississippi River in East St. Louis.

While the St. Louis proposal was ultimately rejected by Amazon, SLEDP leaders say it marked the first time a broad-based alliance of St. Louis-area government jurisdiction jointly cooperated in the formulation of an economic development proposal.

The regional business group now hopes to develop similar, regional joint economic development projects in the future.

Since the Amazon proposal, Sweeney said, the SLEDP has received numerous new calls regarding development of the riverfront.

Details of the MOU were not publicly announced. The Metro-East counties of Madison and Monroe, and the Missouri counties of Jefferson and Franklin, are not a part of the new alliance, although they considered part of the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area and members of the East West Gateway Council of Government.

The announcement of the MOU follows a presentation by SLEDP leaders at the Belleville Chamber of Commerce’s April 23 “Eggs and Issues” working breakfast for St. Clair County business leaders.

It comes just ahead of the SLEDP’s fifth annual FreightWeek STL exposition in St. Louis, May 21-24, at which the group plans to promote the area as an international land, water, and air freight hub. Some 2,000 shipping industry representatives are expected.

Fairmount Park’s 93rd racing season may be its last based on the schedule for this year. (Photo courtesy of Fairmount Park)

Fairmont Park opens with limited schedule

In Collinsville, Fairmount Park, last week (May 1) kicked off its 93rd season of thoroughbred horse racing, but with only 41 live racing dates scheduled through this fall. Moreover, track management says the track might actually close — perhaps for good — as early as July, if the Illinois General Assembly does approve legislation allowing slot machines at horse racing venues.

As recently as 1997, Fairmount Park offered up to 232 live racing days per year. Over recent years, however, the track has felt the competition from riverboat casinos. Harness racing was discontinued at the rack in 1999.  Last year, the Illinois Racing Board approved a schedule of just 60 races at the track.

“Racinos,” with both slot machines and live racings, event have helped race tracks weather casino competition in other areas of the nation.

In addition to live racing, Fairmount Park offers simulcast wagering from tracks throughout the country. It operates four off-track betting (OTB) facilities in Alton, Carbondale, Springfield and Sauget. A fifth OTB facility in Grayville closed in early 2007.

Plans for a new 20,000-seat amphitheater and expanded racing schedule (including the reinstatement of harness racing), announced 2007 at Fairmont Park, have long been on hold.

$33 million Esquiline senior complex planned

The Catholic Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, May 3, announced the planned redevelopment of The Apartment Community of Our Lady of the Snows as The Esquiline, A Life Plan Community at the Shrine.

Th $33-million-to-$35-million renovations of the 17-acres complex  at the rear of the 200-plus-acre National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows off Illinois Route 15 in Belleville is to include:

  • A new three-story, independent living apartment building with approximately 24 units;
  • Ten new 1,365-square-foot courtyard homes, with attached one-car garages. for independent living;
  • Renovation of existing buildings and common areas;
  • New memory care and skilled care facilities;
  • A new rooftop lounge and garden on the complex’s existing high-rise apartment building.
  • A second entrance.

Construction is expected to begin in 2019; with completion in 2020.

However, before beginning construction, The Esquiline, the development established by the Missionary Oblates, is test marketing the project by developing a list of interested older adult residents.

The Esquiline is currently soliciting $1,000 refundable deposits from older adults interested in the independent living units.

Qualified older adults on the waiting list will then be able to secure residence in the new complex, with payment of a 90-percent-refundable entrance fee of $195,000 to $299,000. Ten percent of the entrance fee will be used as a reservation deposit, developers say.

Residents in the complex need not be Catholics, according to the developers.

East Alton schools to consider name changes

East Alton School District 13 has scheduled a special public heading, during its regularly scheduled May 15 Board of Education meeting, to gather input on the possible renaming of the district’s schools.  

Superintendent Virgil Moore says marquees above the entrances of the district’s thee schools are scheduled to be replaced this years; providing a practical opportunity to make any desired change in the schools’ official names.

The district consists of three facilities: East Alton Middle School, Washington Elementary School, and Eastwood Elementary; named after a nearby subdivision.

Superintendent Moore reportedly would like to rename two of the schools after long-serving board of education members. However, some district parents reportedly have concerns about naming buildings after sitting board memes.

The school board meeting starts at 6 p.m., next Tuesday, with the public hearing to open at 6:15 p.m.


–Metro East Area News Briefs–