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North Prospect Road retailers, watch out!

A building boom has hit southeast Urbana.

South Philo Road, between Florida Avenue and Windsor Road, will soon be home to a new Meijer, a luxury student apartment complex and a shopping center.

The 156,000 square-foot Meijer store is expected to open in 2008.

The exterior of two buildings are complete at the Pines at Stone Creek Commons, a 7-acre neighborhood shopping center on Philo Road, which will house from 10 to 12 businesses. The buildings' interior spaces will be finished based on the tenants' needs, said Mark Dixon, director of real estate at the Atkins Group. Also under construction as part of the project are a new Monical's Pizza and a Busey Bank.

"There is enough space for the shopping center to double in size as demand increases for more retail space," Dixon said.

Pre-construction began in fall 2006, and the actual building construction started this past spring. "The Atkins Group built the shopping center on a scale that would fit in nicely with the adjacent neighborhood and landscaped it to compliment Meadow Brook Park, which is only about a quarter a mile away," Dixon said.

"We tried to incorporate pedestrian details to encourage people to walk and ride bikes there," he said.

The Busey Bank in the shopping center is expected to open in December or January, Dixon said, with Monical's opening in the spring.

Windsor Road, the south beltway connecting the growing residential areas of southwest Champaign and Savoy to Urbana, has lots of traffic, which is attractive to businesses, but the Atkins Group waited to build the shopping center until more houses were built in the area to attract businesses, he said. Retailers, especially grocers, like to locate in areas near homes, he said.

"Growth leads to more growth," Dixon said. "So we had to have the houses before we had the retail."

The majority of the houses in the area were built in the past 15 years, Dixon said. Residential developments in the area include Cobble Creek, Stone Creek, Amber Pointe Apartments, Deerfield Trails, Savannah Green, Eagle Ridge, South Ridge and Canterbury Ridge, an assisted living facility.

Carle Clinic and Christie Clinic are both building facilities a little east of the Meijer location on Windsor Road, and both buildings are nearly complete.

The City of Urbana has been pushing for more development in the area.

"We've been working to get some redevelopment and new development along Philo Road," said Tom Carrino, Urbana's economic development manager.

At the site of the old Kmart on Philo Road, developer Chris Creek has built the first phase of The Pointe at U of I, a luxury student apartment complex that will contain four three-story apartment buildings with a total of 432 bedrooms. The apartments will be rented out by the bedroom, and the entire project is expected to be completed by the summer.

Creek's company, CTC Illinois Properties, is also planning a 12,000-square-foot commercial building on South Philo Road for four restaurants, including a Subway.

Clive Follmer, the owner of Sunnycrest Mall, said he is in the planning stages of improving the facade of his mall. About 85 percent of the mall is filled with office space. He plans to conform the fronts of his building to match with the design of the new Walgreens that is being built on South Philo Road, he said.

"There will be major improvements to the existing building to go along with the new Walgreens and a new building between Walgreens and McDonald's," Follmer said.

The County Market at Colorado and Philo was renovated a couple of years ago and the Marathon and Papa Johns on East Florida were improved within the last two years, Carrino said.

"There are a lot of good things happening along Philo Road," he said.

"The Southgate Shopping Center, the cite of a former Jerry's IGA, is ripe for redevelopment," Carrino said.

"The city hired a consultant to meet with residents, business owners and neighborhood associations and create an aesthetic plan to attract retailers, developers and consumers to the South Philo Road area," Carrino said. The plan may include landscaping, street lights and banners.

"The city wants to start implementing the plan in the spring," Carrino said.

The new developments will give more shopping options to Urbana residents.

"For some people, it would just be a little more convenient to stay in Urbana and shop a little closer and when they pay sales tax, they'd like it to stay in Urbana," Carrino said.

The area will also draw shoppers from outlying areas like St. Joseph and further east.

The city of Urbana has encouraged development through granting tax advantages and subsidies for some developers.

The city made a sales tax sharing agreement with Meijer 10 years ago. Urbana will share funds from sales tax to pay for off-site infrastructure to accommodate the store, including widening on Windsor and Philo roads. Windsor Road will be widened from Myra Ridge to High Cross Road.

The city granted some subsidies to developers, including $200,000 to Creek to offset the cost of demolishing the old Kmart building in order to make room for the luxury apartments and $3 million to The Atkins Group toward the Stone Creek subdivision and golf course in the early 1990s, Carrino said.

The city also offers a Redevelopment Incentive Program to encourage small business owners to make their properties look better.

"It's really an incentive designed to improve the aesthetics of the area," Carrino said.

As part of the program, the city will buy down the interest on a private loan up to 5.5 percent. The city also has a grant component where it will pay up to 10 percent of the loan amount on up to a $60,000 loan. The program is aimed at smaller retailers.

"The True Value Hardware on Colorado Avenue in Urbana has taken advantage of the program," Carrino said.

"Finally, businesses built within the enterprise zone receive tax exemptions on building materials," Carrino said.

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