University Town Center Names Chief Development Director: Development Plan Remains Ridiculous

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University Town Center at Glen Carbon

According to the Building Blocks blog, Tim Lowe has been named as chief development director of University Town Center.

From the University Town Center project proposal:

The University Town Center project is a 900+ acre destination mixed-use retail and entertainment project that will have a substantial impact on the St. Louis Metropolitan area and beyond. It will be located in Glen Carbon, Madison County, Illinois, at the intersection of I-270 and Route 157 & I-255 and Route 162 – less than two (2) miles from Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville, 4.5 miles from Southwestern Illinois College, “The Sam Wolf Granite City Campus”, and 21 miles from Lewis and Clark Community College.

The proposal is a bit brief on details, but there are some very rosy numbers floating out there in regards to this project: $1B development, 10,000 construction jobs, $34 million in taxes from building materials, state income taxes of $15.5 million, 3,100 permanent jobs, $16 million a year in property taxes and a total economic impact of $1.5 billion.

The problem may be that large retail developments such as this tend to be a zero-sum game. Retailers in the Metro East may relocate to the ironically named Town Center or new retailers may open, forcing existing retailers to close. For $1B destination retail development to not poach from existing retail either existing residents need to spend more (seems unlikely in the near future to say the least) or more shoppers must be found. While the Metro East has been growing in population, that growth has certainly not outpaced retail growth. The developer has stated that they hope to pull in shoppers from a 250-mile radius. I can’t imagine what type of shopping destination would be successful in doing that (short of maybe an IKEA). With big incentives in the form of STAR bonds (similar to TIF) the developers may win big, but the Metro East loses.

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