Officials Discuss Hotel and Other Developments

The plans of a possible hotel and other economic developments are still in the works, Marengo city officials said.

If built, the hotel would be called the “Cobblestone Inn,” and would be located at 19911 East Grant Highway. Prairie Communities, located in Woodstock, has done commercial and residential development in the past with the city, said Joshua Blakemore, Assistant to the Marengo City Administrator. The developer first contacted the city in 2007. The architectural design of the possible building was also discussed at the Marengo City Council meeting on October 11, 2010.

“The developer and land owner are working on some financing options andstill maintain regular contact with the city,” Blakemore said. “They are still very much interested in the City of Marengo, and I would expect to hear from them in the next month or two.”

Blakemore said there would be many benefits of having a hotel in Marengo.

“Currently, there are no hotels in the city’s corporate limits,” he said. “It would be beneficial given the efforts of the city’s tourism council. There are over 250,000 visitors to the Marengo-area each year. The city would like to give them the option of staying overnight at a local hotel.”

Blakemore said the hotel could also bring in franchises to Marengo.

“There are many uses that could be built on a business park lot that would serve as a nice complimentary use to the hotel,” he said. “From the city’s standpoint, the sooner development [would occur] near the hotel the better.”

Since the project is part of the Eastern Corridor Tax Increment Financing district (TIF), a redevelopment agreement would need to be worked out between the developer and the city outlining how the TIF dollars are to be spent, Blakemore said.

After the Downtown TIF and the Eastern Corridor TIF were passed by the city, there have been developers who have shown interest in development. “I believe I’m starting to see a few more people looking at Marengo,” said Don Lockhart, Mayor of Marengo. “Obviously, [the TIF] hasn’t been used yet because we don’t have any increment [currently]. But, it will start. As it does, we’ll be able to start the process.”

Lockhart said the next step is to, “get all the taxing districts to agree on what they expect from the TIF.”

At the Marengo City Council meeting on May 23, 2011, the city discussed the need to have an expert in charge of implementing the TIFs, filing yearly statements, and other duties, Lockhart said.

As far as economic growth for the future of the city, Lockhart said he would like to see commercial and industrial growth. “I’d like to see more retail,” he said. “I’d like to see the hotel come to Marengo. We need to bring jobs to the city, and we need to give tax relief to the people that are in the residential area. We have a very small amount of commercial and industrial compared to the residential. Therefore the senior citizens and everyone else are required to pay more. If we had a good industrial and commercial base and some big-box stores and so forth, then we would be able to relieve a lot of that pressure on those people.”

Blakemore said the goal is to provide the city with economic development opportunities and expand the city’s commercial and retail tax base.

“Over time, I believe the TIF districts will prove to be a valuable tool to the community and hopefully bring some exciting new projects to the city, such as a hotel or a CVS,” he said. “The city can grow our commercial and retail base with the Eastern TIF, while hopefully, the Downtown TIF will fill some vacant storefronts and improve streetscaping in the Downtown area. Ideally, both TIFs will also allow the city to complete some infrastructure projects, such as installing, repairing, and replacing water and sewer mains.”