West Central IL Developer Asking For Loan From the City of Jacksonville to Re-Develop Former Shopko Site

By Benjamin Cox on March 14, 2023 at 9:21am

The Jacksonville City Council heard a business plan last night from a West Central Illinois businessman wanting to redevelop the old Shopko building.

Tom Marx, who currently owns many of the properties in the former Wal-Mart plaza as well as Lincoln Square spoke to the city council last night saying that the “iron is hot” for 3 Fortune 500, national companies to come to Jacksonville if he’s allowed to move forward, with some help from the city, on renovations to the former Shopko location on West Morton Avenue: “It’s a great location, but the problem with the building is it’s a big box building. In today’s commercial world, big box buildings are not easy to fill. There just not that many single tenants out there wanting to come into communities of 18,000-20,000 population and set up shop. About the only thing you can do with a building like that is subdivide it. The other problem with the building is that it’s about 240 feet deep. Most tenants in the commercial world that I lease to only want 100 feet. So, if you fill up the front with some smaller tenants, you are kind of stuck with half the building sitting vacant. The only use for that perhaps is warehousing, and that of course, is possible.”

The building is 101,688-square-foot on over 18.5 acres in Jacksonville’s west end. Mayor Andy Ezard says it’s vital that the spot see some life because of its proximity to the U.S. 67 interchange and to other commercial businesses that receive a lot of traffic.

Marx says he can’t name the three national companies he’s spoken with on the basis of a confidentiality agreement, but he did say that currently people from Jacksonville go to Springfield and Quincy to shop in their stores. He says 2 out of the 3 potential tenants have toured the building with the third driving by the location.

Marx says he’s added some investment into the property since he purchased the location at 1964 West Morton Avenue at auction from a group of New York State land developers in February 2022 for $1.3 million. He says he’s recently added LED lighting, cleaned up the parking lots, and gotten the area free of some accumulating trash. He says he needs more money to make the property feasible to lease to tenants.

Marks is asking the City of Jacksonville for a loan and a modified tax revenue program from the shops that will set up in the location in the hopes of possible further expansion in the space: “What I try not to ask for from cities is taxpayer money. In this particular case, I’m asking for a loan of $1 million to be paid back over a 20-year annuitization but it would be ballooned off in 10 years. That part of it is a loan. I’m willing to do a personal guarantee to back the loan, as well. The second part of this is we are asking for $2 million to be paid back to the developer, which is me, that would come from the sales tax that is generated from the sales of these 3 tenants and future tenants that I hope to bring to the area there. Every $2 collected of sales tax – not raising sales taxes, we’re just collecting additional sales tax…and so, every $2 that the city collects, we would ask a dollar to be paid back to the developer until the time the $2 million was reached. Now, it could take some years for us to see all of that.”

arx says the hope is to add an adjoining building and a third building on the west side of the site as parking would allow. According to the Quincy Herald-Whig, Marx already has a similar agreement with the City of Quincy when he re-developed the Mid-Town Business District at the corner of 30th and Broadway streets near downtown Quincy. City Attorney Dan Beard said last night that a similar loan had been done with the city and J.J. Richardson in 2009.

Kristin Jamison of the Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation who was in attendance at the city’s workshop session says that the city could use the model with Marx as a template for other large scale developers who may come to Jacksonville in the future and want to invest. She says it could be a competitive tool to attract future development.

City Finance Chair, Ward 5 Alderman Don Cook, set a finance committee hearing prior to the next city council on March 27th to work out any final details prior to the city voting on an agreement with Marx for the site.