City loan key to finishing Heer’s project

Chris Wrinkle, SBJ ReporterChristmas shopping at Heer’s Department Store always was something of a tradition for me. I even remember getting my first taste of tortellini Alfredo at J Parrino’s restaurant in the Heer’s building.

Most Springfield natives, if they’re completely honest, will admit that watching the building fall into its current state actually has been painful to see.

The city of Springfield approved Aug. 23 a $2 million loan to St. Louis development company Blue Urban LLC.

The loan aims to close the funding gap and bring some sort of closure to this project.

Should the city have loaned McGowan the money? That can be debated, but here’s how it will work.

McGowan needed the $2 million because his other funding sources left him just short. Without the city’s loan and the state loan funneled through the city, McGowan came up with $26.3 million.

The next step for McGowan is to apply for an $11.8 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development loan to go with the city’s $2 million loan, a $1 million state loan, $5.2 million in Federal Historic Tax Credits; and a $4.9 million State Historic Tax Credit bridge loan and $4.4 million in developer contribution to complete the complex financial plan.

Original project costs were estimated between $25 million and $27 million but after hard numbers were plugged in and $800,000 in roof damage was discovered, the cost increased by $800,000, according to February 2010 Springfield Business Journal coverage.

Speaking to me between trips last week, McGowan admitted there’s still a long row to hoe.

“There’s still a long road, but (the city’s loan) is critical to getting an application into HUD,” McGowan said. “Without successful passage, the application will not make it into HUD.”

If all the pieces don’t fall into place for McGowan this time, the project will not happen, according to Mary Lilly Smith, Springfield economic development director.

Under McGowan’s plan, the building would be renovated back to its 1950s design.

Other amenities include: 63 market rate apartments; rooftop pool and deck; common study den; fitness center; high-speed Internet access; indoor parking; security system; 33,000 square feet of net rentable commercial space; Mike Shannon’s Steak and Seafood restaurant; banquet space; bowling alley, bar and restaurant.

As with the downtown hotel and convention center project, there isn’t a long line of developers beating a path to the city’s door.

The city is in the process of a competitive assessment of the vacant 1.7-acre tract of land between the city-owned Expo Center and John Q. Hammons-owned Jordan Valley Car Park.

Results of the assessment are still to come but a proposal to buy back the land from Hammons for $1 remains on the table.

We have no choice but to believe McGowan when he says he intends to see his Heer’s Tower plan through.

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