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Developers aim to restart new Riley’s site in Marion

By Jessie Hellmann | The Gazette | February 8, 2016

MARION — Developers plan to reboot a failed construction project in uptown Marion this spring after the roof collapsed on the property, requiring the demolition of almost all the remaining structure.

The roof of an ongoing construction project at 1204 Seventh Ave., the future site of Riley’s Cafe,collapsed in September, halting any progress on the development and causing local business owners and city leaders to question whether it should be eligible for financial assistance from the city.

Capital Commercial Division LLC, the developer behind the project, had been working on constructing a multistory, mixed-use building since 2013. Now, Jodi Siamis, managing member with Capital Commercial, said the project will take on new features — from changing the structural support columns from wood to steel and possibly adding in solar panels to follow Marion’s goals of being a “greener community,” while picking up a quicker pace and finishing this year.

“It’s our goal to go a little more green because it’s been a negative event. We recognized that in order to make a positive end result to contribute to uptown Marion, we can go with a green factor,” Siamis said.

The Marion City Council initially awarded Capital Commercial a development agreement, worth up to $650,000, to complete the project, but it had expired as construction dragged on.

While the city was in the process of negotiating a new agreement, the roof collapsed on the building, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of some council members and local business owners, who question why the city should offer financial assistance to a project that didn’t make timely progress and experienced such a large setback.

The council voted in October to table the revised agreement at the request of the developer, and any new agreements would have to be re-proposed to the city, City Manager Lon Pluckhahn said.

Siamis said she plans to ask the council for a financial help soon, saying Capital Commercial would be fine with a different, performance-based agreement with the city.

“This has not been fun for any of us,” she said. “We’ll pay our dues and choose that level of commitment from Marion, whatever it is we need to do to not only earn a development agreement but we’re willing to do one with a performance-based structure.”

While Mayor Nick AbouAssaly expressed concern about the troubles the project has seen, a revised development agreement may be in the future if there are provisions for a timeline for completion and the expectations of the city are met, he said.

“Certainly there’s a lot of concern about how things took place the past couple of years with the developer of that property,” AbouAssaly said. “The city has an interest in making sure whatever is built there is going to be there a long time and making sure the parcel is developed to its full potential.”

The site is the former location of an old Jiffy Lube and is one of the hottest pieces of real estate in the uptown section, lying on the city’s main thoroughfare, city officials often have said.

The plans for the development have changed several times, AbouAssaly said, being downsized from a three-story building to one with two stories.

At the October city council meeting, owners from surrounding businesses advised against awarding an agreement, saying the project, which had been under construction for nearly two years. Marion Chamber of Commerce President Jill Ackerman told council members at that October meeting the timing of the project has been disruptive to the business community and the neighbors of the project, requesting any incentive be given only after the project is completed in full and in a timely fashion.

The cause of the roof collapse was never determined, said Ron Hoover of the city’s Building Services Department. One of the main support beams rolled and started a chain reaction, he said, causing all the building’s supports to fall. | DOWNLOAD PDF

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